News hit the web late yesterday: Stranger in a Strange Land is coming to television.
The classic 1961 novel by Robert A. Heinlein, known for its wanderings into the philosophies of free love and world peace, is the story of Valentine Michael Smith, the lone survivor of a doomed expedition to Mars. Raised by Martians and given extraordinary powers, Smith returns to Earth and begins influencing every fabric of the culture.
Universal Cable Productions and Paramount Television are co-producing the series (note: not miniseries), which will air on Syfy. To date, it’s the network’s most ambitious adaptation project since returning to its core programming roots. The network is also working on a new adaptation of Strange New World, but that project has been remarkably under the radar.
“Paramount TV is excited to have the opportunity to adapt Robert Heinlein’s seminal work of science fiction,” said Paramount TV president Amy Powell. “This novel has resonated with me since college and there’s a reason it has continued to find new fans for over forty years. Syfy’s understanding of imaginative and futuristic programming is unmatched, making them an ideal partner for this series.
In 2012, the book was named one of eighty-eight “Books that Shaped America” by the United States Library of Congress. It has won the 1962 Hugo Award for Best Novel, and was the first science fiction novel on The New York Times Book Review bestseller list. The original publication was 160,067 words due to mandates from the publisher, Putnam, but Heinlein’s widow Virginia released the uncut 220,000-word version in 1991, three years after Heinlein’s death.
Heinlein himself was surprised at the influence the book has had over the culture, saying he never intended it to be a diatribe on how he felt society should be organized, telling a fan, “I was not giving answers. I was trying to shake the reader loose from some preconceptions and induce him to think for himself, along new and fresh lines. In consequence, each reader gets something different out of that book because he himself supplies the answers . . . . It is an invitation to think — not to believe.” (NY Times)
The television adaptation will be executive produced by Brad Fischer, James Vanderbilt and William Sherak of Mythology Entertainment; Scott Rudin, Garrett Basch and Eli Bush of Scott Rudin Productions; and Joe Vecchio of Vecchio Entertainment. Mythology’s Julia Gunn will be co-executive producer.
“From my point of view, Stranger in a Strange Land isn’t just a science fiction masterpiece…it also happens to be one of my favorite books ever!” said NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment chairman Bonnie Hammer said. “The story is timeless and resonates more than ever in today’s world. As a fan, I can’t wait to see it come to life as a world-class television event.”
One wonders how the show will handle some of the more provocative aspects of the book. Networks still have rules and ratings, after all, but we are eagerly waiting to grok this show.