Sadly, I was not able to attend ComiCon this year, but I hear the NIGHTFLYERS panel drew a huge crowd and was a rousing success.
Check out this New preview and poster the SyFy Channel dropped at the Con.
Current Mood: excited
With the NIGHTFLYERS television series deep in the throes of pre-production and set to start filing over in Limerick soon, my original novella will soon be available again… twice.
Tor is going to reissuing NIGHTFLYERS & OTHER STORIES, the short story collection we released originally in 1985. More details on that one in my post of January 18, below.
Bantam Spectra is also going to be publishing NIGHTFLYERS, as a stand-alone deluxe illustrated hardcover. The text will be the original novella, in its expanded 30,000 word version. The Bantam edition will also include fifteen interior illustrations and two endpapers from the astonishing and talented David Palumbo, printed in four color. Release is scheduled for May 29.
The cover is by Larry Rostant:
A few months later, in late August, Bantam will release a trade paperback tie-in edition, featuring key art from the TV series on the covers, with Palumbo’s interior illustrations in black & white.
If you haven’t read “Nightflyers” yet, you will have plenty of opportunity. Hope you enjoy it.
((Comments permitted, but stay on topic)).
Current Mood: pleased
With SyFy’s new NIGHTFLYERS television series fully cast and deeps in the throes of pre-production, I am pleased to say that my original novella will be returning as well. In several forms.
Tor will be the first out of the gate, with a reissue of my 1985 short story collection, NIGHTFLYERS & OTHER STORIES… with (thankfully) a gorgeous new cover by Stephen Youll.
The collection contains the expanded 30,000 word version of novella “Nightflyers,” and five additional stories:
“Weekend in a War Zone”
“And Seven Times Never Kill Man”
“Nor the Many-Colored Fires of a Star Ring”
“A Song for Lya”
“A Song for Lya” was my first Hugo Award winner, and is also a novella, one of my strongest works. “And Seven Times Never Kill Man” was one of my Hugo losers (and the basis for the famous John Schoenherr ANALOG cover that some say inspired George Lucas to create the Ewoks, for which I accept absolutely no blame). Both of those are part of my Thousand Worlds future history, like “Nighflyers” itself. “Override” and “Nor the Many-Colored Fires…” were SF, but not part of the same continuity, and “War Zone” was a near future dystopia, and a bit of an experiment for me. In other words, this is a real grab bag of a collection.
The publication date is May 29.
((Comments allowed, but stay on topic please)).
Current Mood: happy
The SyFy Channel released their official announcement of the NIGHTFLYERS television series today. The show will be based on my novella of the same name, from 1980.
SYFY ANNOUNCES SERIES ORDER FOR ‘NIGHTFLYERS,’ BASED ON GEORGE R.R. MARTIN’S NOVELLA, FROM UNIVERSAL CABLE PRODUCTIONS
Gretchen Mol, Eoin Macken, David Ajala and Brían F. O’Byrne Set to Star
Series Will Premiere on Netflix Outside of U.S.
Universal City, CA – January 4, 2018 — SYFY today announced a series pickup for NIGHTFLYERS, based on author George R.R. Martin’s novella and the 1987 film of the same name. Jeff Buhler (“Jacob’s Ladder”) wrote the adaptation for television and will executive produce alongside Daniel Cerone (“The Blacklist”) who will also serve as showrunner. Martin will also executive produce, along with Gene Klein (“Suits”), David Bartis (“Suits”) and Doug Liman (“Live. Die. Repeat”) of Hypnotic; Alison Rosenzweig (“Jacob’s Ladder,” “Windtalkers”) and Michael Gaeta (“Jacob’s Ladder”) of Gaeta Rosenzweig Films; Lloyd Ivan Miller and Alice P. Neuhauser of Lloyd Ivan Miller Productions. Robert Jaffe (“Nightflyers,” – 1987) will produce. Andrew McCarthy (“Orange is the New Black”) will be a producer-director on the project. Mike Cahill (“I Origin”) will direct the pilot.
The series will be produced by Universal Cable Productions. Netflix will co-produce and have first-run rights to the series outside of the U.S.
Gretchen Mol (“Boardwalk Empire”) is set to star as Dr. Agatha Matheson, alongside Eoin Macken (“The Night Shift”) as Karl D’Branin, David Ajala (“Fast & Furious 6”) as Roy Eris, Sam Strike (“EastEnders”) as Thale, Maya Eshet (“Teen Wolf”) as Lommie, Angus Sampson (“Fargo”) as Rowan, Jodie Turner-Smith (“The Last Ship”) as Melantha Jhirl and Brían F. O’Byrne (“Million Dollar Baby”) as Auggie.
Current Mood: pleased
My novella “Nightflyers” tells the story of a group of scientists who charter a tramp starship to take them into deep interstellar space in search of the volcryn, an alien species thought by some to be mythic. In my original story, only the three main characters are named — Karoly d’Branin, the leader of the expedition; Royd Eris, the mysterious owner and captain of the starship Nightflyer, who is never seen except as a hologram; and Melantha Jhirl, a genetically engineered ‘improved model’ from the planet Prometheus, who is larger, faster, brighter, and stronger than an Earth-normal human.
This is how I described her:
“Young, healthy, active, Melantha Jhirl had a vibrancy about her the others could not match. She was big in every way; a head taller than anyone else on board, large-framed, large-breasted, long-legged, strong, muscles moving fluidly beneath shiny coal-black skin. Her appetites were big as well. She ate twice as much as any of her colleagues, drank heavily without ever seeming drunk, exercised for hours every day on equipment she had brought with her and set up in one of the cargo holds. By the third week out she had sexed with all four of the men on board and two of the other women. Even in bed she was always active, exhausting most of her partners. Royd watched her with consuming interest.
“I am an improved model,” she told him once as she worked out on her parallel bars, sweat glistening on her bare skin, her long black hair confined in a net.”
FYI, I likely found the name Melantha is one of the “What To Name Your Baby” books I kept on hand for naming my characters. The name means “black flower” or “dark flower.”
When “Nightflyers” was first published in 1980, Paul Lehr’s striking cover featured the volcryn. I expanded the story from 23,000 to 30,000 words for its republication in BINARY STARS, but that one featured an all-graphics cover. A few years later, I put together a new short story collection for Bluejay Books with “Nightflyers” as the title story (the collection also included my earlier Hugo-winning novella “A Song for Lya,” and a handful of other shorts).
The NIGHTFLYERS cover was the first time Melantha Jhirl was illustrated. Take a look:
See the problem?
Truth be told, there are several problems with that cover. The art is mediocre at best (though I’ve had worse). The scene makes no sense; the woman seems to be standing in space, outside the spaceship, without a helmet. I think the pose may have been intended to evoke echoes from ten thousand Gothics, wherein the governess is running away from the haunted house behind her, where one window shines in the darkness. Here you have one glowing doorway in the darkness of space. If that was the intent, though… well, let’s just say it did not work.
All that is minor. The big problem, needless to say, was the race of the character depicted. No WAY that was Melantha Jhirl, my dark-skinned genetically engineered superwoman.
I was not happy. Melantha was black, I pointed out. My publisher acknowledged as much, but declined to make a change. “Do you want your book to sell?” he asked me. Of course I did, I replied. “Well, if we put a black woman on the cover, no one will buy it.”
To put this all in context, this exchange took place in 1985. My fourth novel had sold dismally the previous year, and Simon & Schuster, who had published my first four novels under its Timescape and Poseidon Press imprints, had dropped me. I was not in a position of strength. In fact, I was hanging on to my career by my fingernails. Still, I did continue to protest. The publisher’s assertion shocked me. This was a science fiction book, after all, the fans I knew read books with elves and vampires and green-skinned martians on the cover, I could not believe what I was being told. What was the evidence for this? I asked. It was something that “everybody knew,” I was told. Besides, the cover had already been paid for.
At that point, I folded. NIGHTFLYERS was published in trade paperback with the cover unchanged. A short time later, Tor acquired the mass market rights and reprinted the collection with the same cover. (When the movie was released, Tor reissued the mass market as a tie-in with the poster art on the cover. That version that did not feature Melantha).
I was unhappy with the portrayal of Melantha in 1985. As the years passed, I grew even more unhappy… with the cover, and with myself. No, I probably did not have the power to get the cover changed, not then. I had no contractual right to cover approval. But I could have tried harder, argued longer, made a bigger fuss, gone public (as other, braver writers did). Maybe I could even have withdrawn the book.
Instead I went along. I did not have the courage of my convictions. I did not believe what “everybody knew,” but I think part of me feared they might be right, and after ARMAGEDDON RAG I badly needed NIGHTFLYERS to do well. (For what’s it worth, the collection sold pretty badly in any case). When I look back now, I am ashamed.
A few years later, the NIGHTFLYERS movie came along. I had no part in the making of the film, beyond cashing the check for the rights (which check saved my house, and possibly my career). I never saw the script. In the film, Melantha’s name was changed to Miranda Dorlac, for… reasons, I guess. Maybe they just liked the sound of it better.
((Karoly d’Branin underwent a name change too, to Michael d’Branin, but Royd Eris remained Royd Eris. The minor characters had names completely different from those I’d given them in the novella, but there was an explanation for that… one I guessed at long ago, but only had confirmed this fall, when we presented NIGHTFLYERS at the Jean Cocteau. As I’d surmised, screenwriter Robert Jaffe had worked from the original novella in ANALOG, not the later expanded version… and in the original novella, the secondary characters are never given names, but rather referred to only as “the telepath,” “the xenologist,” “the linguist,” etc. Jaffe invented his own names for them, unaware that I had named them myself in the longer version of the novella)).
The film cast the part of Miranda Dorlac (Melantha Jhirl) with Catherine Mary Stewart.
Catherine Mary Stewart was a well-established, popular actress, one of the biggest names in the NIGHTFLYERS cast, and she did a perfectly fine job of portraying Miranda Dorlac, as the character had been reimagined… but she was certainly not Melantha Jhirl. This time I did not even have an opportunity to protest, as I was never consulted on the casting… though I did meet Catherine Mary Stewart, the one and only time I visited the set. She was perfectly pleasant. And, of course, by then it was far too late to speak up, so I said nothing.
The film came out in 1987. A long time ago. For decades I hardly gave NIGHTFLYERS a thought. Until the spring, when I learned that SyFy, having acquired the rights from Vista via the old movie, was developing a television series. I had no part in the development, and indeed had been unaware of it until then.. and my exclusive deal with HBO meant that I could have no real role in the show… but the announcement brought back a lot of memories. I had been silent twice when I should have spoken up. I was determined not to be silent a third time. So I reached out to UCP and through them to the writers and producers of the NIGHTFLYERS project and told them… well, pretty much what I’ve told you here. And, I am delighted to say, they listened.
In the series the character is called Mel, but I understand that’s just short for Melantha (in the script I read, Karoly d’Branin has become Karl and Royd Eris is simply Roy, so there is a consistency there). And Mel will be played by actress JODIE TURNER-SMITH.
Maybe it took thirty years, but at long last I can say: now, that’s Melantha Jhirl.
Showrunner Daniel Cerone writes, “We’re beyond excited about her. From the start Jeff maintained that we needed a black actress (Jodie is British and Jamaican) to follow your original vision. We enjoyed your story about how the book publishers (and the original movie) missed the boat on Melantha and we’d love your fans to know that we’re working hard to honor your intentions.”
You can learn more about her here:
I have not yet had the honor of meeting Ms. Turner-Smith, but I could not be happier about her casting, and I cannot wait to see what she brings to Melantha. My thanks go out to all the good folk at UCP, SyFy, and NIGHTFLYERS for making it happen.
I only wish it had happened thirty years ago.
Current Mood: satisfied
I spent some time in LA the week before Thanksgiving, as mentioned below in my “City of Angels” post. Meetings, meetings, and more meetings… along with some get-togethers with old friends.
There’s a lot of cool things in the works, most of which I can’t tell you about. (Yet).
I can say a few words about one of the highlights of the trip, however. I finally had the chance to sit down and break bread with the guys who are bringing NIGHTFLYERS to television for the SyFy channel: writer/ creator Jeff Buhler, who scripted the pilot (below, left), and showrunner Daniel Cerone, who will helm the series (below, right).
This was the first time I’d met (or spoken with) either Jeff or Daniel, but we had a great meeting, and I was impressed by their enthusiasm and their plans for the series. Cerone’s extensive list of previous credits includes THE BLACKLIST, THE MENTALIST, and DEXTER. Buhler’s previous writing credits include ELOISE, PET SEMATARY, and THE MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN. He’s also been an actor and director. I read a draft of his pilot back in May, when I first heard of the NIGHTFLYERS television project. While it departs considerably from my novella in certain details, the essence of the story remains the same — and I thought the teleplay was quite strong on its own terms, and a good launching point for a series.
The original version of “Nightflyers” was published in 1980 (when I looked more like the guy in the picture above), as a 23,000 word novella in ANALOG. Set in my ‘Thousand Worlds’ (aka ‘manrealm’) universe, it was one of the SF/ horror hybrids that I was writing in the late 70s and early 80s, the best known of which was my novelette “Sandkings” from the year before. “Sandkings” had won both the Hugo and Nebula awards, and “Nightflyers” was also well received, winning the LOCUS Award as best novella and a place on the Hugo ballot (losing the rocket to a Dorsai novella by Gordy Dickson). The novella also won the Seiun Award in Japan. (FWIW, the inspiration for both of those stories was a statement I read somewhere by a critic, to the effect that SF and horror was opposites, and fundamentally incompatible. As a lifelong fan of both, that assertion struck me as nonsense, so I set out to prove it wrong by blending the two genres together. Worked out pretty well for me).
A few years later, I expanded “Nightflyers” to 30,000 words for inclusion in a volume of Dell’s BINARY STAR series, where it was paired with Vernon Vinge’s “True Names.” The longer version has been my preferred text ever since, and it was that version that was included in the Bluejay collection NIGHTFLYERS AND OTHER STORIES, and later in my RRetrospective DREAMSONGS. In 1984, screen and television rights to “Nightflyers” were purchased by Vista, and a low budget feature film was released in 1987, scripted by Robert Jaffe and starring Michael Praed and Catherine Mary Stewart.
Sometime in the last year or so, SyFy acquired the television rights via that old movie deal, unbeknownest to me; the first I’d heard of their development was last spring. Honestly, at first I was baffled as to how they hoped to get a series out of my story, since at the end of the novella (and the film) pretty much everyone is dead (it was a horror story, after all). But in May, UCP got me a copy of Jeff Buhler’s script, and I saw how he’d dealt with that. It was a good read, and yes, I came away with a better idea of where they’d find a few seasons.
I was delighted to have the chance to sit down and talk with Jeff and Daniel, and learn more of their plans. NIGHTFLYERS was only a pilot script in May, but subsequently it has been picked up for a full ten-episode season order, with a substantial budget, one that should allow them to create a show that looks as good as modern audiences expect. They showed me drawings of some of the set designs, some very cool sets. They even showed me the NIGHTFLYER herself:
NIGHTFLYERS will be shot in the Republic of Ireland, I’m told, on sound stages in Limerick… which will give them access to the same great pool of Irish and British actors that GAME OF THRONES has tapped in Belfast (and considering how many characters we’ve killed, a lot of them should be available). ((If by some miracles I actually complete enough of my other projects to create some free time, I’ve love to go over there and kill two birds with one flight by visiting both the GOT and NIGHTFLYERS sets… but that remains a long shot, given my current word load)). If all goes according to schedule, the series should debut this summer, in late July. It will be broadcast on SyFy in the USA, and on Netflix around the world.
Presently Cerone and Buhler and their team are deep in the throes of pre-production and casting… and I have some news on the casting front as well, a casting that has pleased me more than I can possibly say, which I will save for another post.
((Comments allowed, but only on NIGHTFLYERS. Stay on topic)).
Current Mood: excited