Apr 10 2013 5:05pm

Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End & Larry Niven’s Ringworld Coming to SyFy

Two works of hard SF are set to become miniseries on the SyFy channel. Both Larry Niven’s Ringworld and Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End will become TV projects in the near future. 

Ringworld concerns deep-space exploration and advanced alien technology, while Childhood’s End imagines a peaceful alien invasion and the transformation of the human race. Both books are considered science fiction classics and among the best works of each respective author. SyFy’s adaptation will be a four-hour mini-series helmed by Michael Perry (The River, Paranormal Activity 2).

Hopefully, this news signals a coming renaissance of thoughtful science fiction on television. Could the era of Sharktopus be over?

[News via Blastr]

Christopher Bennett
1. ChristopherLBennett
To clarify, it's the Ringworld adaptation that's from Perry. The Childhood's End adaptation is being executive produced by The Social Network's Michael DeLuca.

And I'm sure the era of Sharktopus will continue as long as audiences are interested in such movies. It's the lowbrow stuff like that which brings in the big bucks that Syfy uses to fund its classier stuff like scripted dramas and miniseries.
Chris Blanchard
2. Chris Blanchard
I fear for either of these books being done well by this channel. I think that SyFy botch both it's attempts at a Riverworld mini-series, and I shudder when I think of it's attempt to make a "modern" version of A Princess of Mars. I have very little hope of these being done well.
Chris Blanchard
3. Nicholas Winter
I'll give them the benefit of doubt for now as their adaptation of the first two books in the Dune series were quite excellent. And present day CGI or Henson level puppetry will be needed for the puppeteer !
Marc Houle
4. MightyMarc
I think Ringworld can be made into a pretty good mini-series, with the right writers and producers. But Perry? He totally botched Riverworld.
Christopher Bennett
5. ChristopherLBennett
@2: The direct-to-video/TV movie version of A Princess of Mars wasn't produced by Syfy, just aired by them. It was one of the many "mockbuster" knockoffs produced by The Asylum, the company that also gave us Transmorphers, Snakes on a Train, Battle of Los Angeles, Almighty Thor, and other micro-budget imitations aimed at video buyers who don't read titles very carefully. In this case, since the novel is public domain, they could just adapt it rather than producing a vague approximation (as they also did with War of the Worlds when the Spielberg/Cruise version came out).

The precedents here would be the miniseries actually produced by Syfy, which have been a mixed bag. I've heard good things about their Dune adaptations, but they botched Riverworld twice and their version of Earthsea made Ursula LeGuin angry. So there is cause for concern here.
j p
6. sps49
Chilhood's End depends on it's twist; I don't know hoe that will pan out. There isn't a whole lot of tension or action or much of anything in the book.

Ringworld has a great opportunity to kick ass.
Chris Blanchard
7. Athanor
Niven has always been one of my favorite authors, but face it, Ringworld will/should be all about the special effects. The whole book is just a thin story with Niven's (lack of) character development wrapped around an attempt to express how mind-boggling big it is. So if they manage to convey the almost unimaginable size of it, then they will have succeeded.
Dave Thompson
8. DKT
Color me skeptical. It's not like SyFy hasn't had the opportunity to do good SF in the past (see Riverworld) and botched it.
Tara Mitchell
9. Jaxicat
I would feel better if it was someone like HBO or AMC doing these but I'll cross my fingers and hope for the best.
Joe Vondracek
10. joev
Michael R. Perry was a writer for the TV show "The River." That show was hilariously bad. I never pictured Ringworld as a comedy, but, yeah, okay... How much wrestling will be in it?
Chris Blanchard
11. mcl
And brought to you by the network that destroyed The Earthsea books...
Alan Brown
12. AlanBrown
At least they are trying to do some decent SF material, instead of some of the schlock we have seen in the past. In a world where everyone is becoming a geek, perhaps we can hope for a day when TV starts taking on some of the best of written SF. And once one of these becomes a hit, everyone will want to make good SF TV.
(One can dream, can't they?)
Sean Pratz
13. Galoot
@7: This.

Nobody gasps at Saturn's rings because they were overcome by the characterization.
Liz J
14. Ellisande
I feel like Walking Dead's success woke up someone to the possibility that they don't have to be stuck in the ratings basement just because it's genre. So we're getting Defiance and these new miniseries announcements, and to be fair, they haven't tried at one of these 'events' in a while. At least they're trying to be more ambitious for a change.
Cyrus Freeman
15. Kosciuszko
I have a baaaaaad feeling about this... However, television has been on the rise lately in both proficiency and quality, at to some extent, so who knows. At least we're getting this and not another teenage vampire show.
Chris Blanchard
18. Levi A. Than
Given that The Childhood's End adaptation is being executive produced by The Social Network's Michael DeLuca it should at least have good production values. Too bad Clarke himself isn't alive to consult with on the script, direction, and production. The man really knew his science, which is one of the reason's why he could write science fiction so well.

I wonder if they'll place Childhood's End in the present - which would provide the chance to completely screw things up because so many basics of the story , especially science & technology, and most importantly the fact that we've been in for space for many years now - have changed. Hopefully they'll keep it in the 1950's. That's the only time in which it makes any real sense. It's a book that's overripe for a movie adaptation, it's just that, with the SyFy Channel, you never know what you'll get...they may throw in a sharktopus, or a flying Tyranosaurus Rex/King Kong/bunny rabbit hybrid.
S Cooper
19. SPC
I really have a hard time picturing how Childhood's End can be effectively translated to screen. It covers so many years, so many characters, and the end? I'm skeptical that they can translate it with integrity.

Ringworld, on the other hand, could be awesome. If the effects are great, there's lots of ways they could slice the story and still make some kind of sense . . . I'm cautiously optimistic.

And either way - it's better than more Atomic Twister.
Jack Flynn
20. JackofMidworld
I was really excited when I saw the headline; Childhood's End was one of the first legit sci-fi books I ever read, so it holds a special place in my heart, and it'll be interesting to see what somebody can do with it on screen. As SPC said, there's a lot of time and characters to consider, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed that they can do it right.

Regarding the production values for "Made for SyFy" flicks - from what I understand, a lot of those are done by their own production companies and then the finished product is sold to SyFy (I was looking into trying to sell a screenplay I had written and was hoping SyFy might be an option). If they're announcing it themselves, hopefully they're going to actually put some money into it BEFORE they finish it, make it worth the effort.
Christopher Bennett
21. ChristopherLBennett
To the previous few posters: As I remarked above, the schlocky movies that Syfy airs weekly come from a totally different production source than their original scripted series or the high-end miniseries that they do maybe once a year. The cheap, schlocky stuff from Z-grade movie studios, along with the wrestling and reality shows, are how they pay the bills for the higher-quality stuff produced by Universal Cable Productions, Robert Halmi, and the like.

It's like how the same grocery store sells both expensive, fancy food items and cheapo frozen dinners. Just because they're distributed through the same place doesn't mean they're made by the same people.
David Betz
22. RDBetz
"Hopefully, this news signals a coming renaissance of thoughtful science fiction on television."
On SyFi? I am not optimistic.
Marcus W
23. toryx
Childhood's End could make a really good tv show but I'm not optimistic about it appearing on SyFy.

I'd really love to see someone take an excellent classic like Childhood's End and turn it into an HBO or Showtime show. That would be exciting.
Chris Blanchard
24. Foamer
Interestingly enough, I'm going through the whole Ringworld series on audiobook right now... and I'm wondering what's going to happen if they make it to the second book, which is when rishathra kicks in, frequently. By Ringworld Throne I think the Fearless Vampire Slayers spend half their time naked and figuring out how to put Tab A into Slot B.
Chris Blanchard
25. JRThro
Both of those books are all-time favorites of mine.

I could easily see a Ringworld miniseries being a precursor to a full-blown series, just as the Battlestar Galactica miniseries was. The world is certainly big enough to sustain a series.

Childhood's End probably could be completed in a four-hour miniseries.

I hope they both make it to air, and I hope they both don't get screwed up.
James Nicoll
26. JamesDavisNicoll
I don't really see a winning scenario here. Worst case scenario: Mansquito In Space! Best case; remember how Earthsea turned out?
Christopher Bennett
27. ChristopherLBennett
@26: The people who commission and produce the movies like Mansquito and Sharknado are a totally different group than the people who commission and produce Syfy's scripted dramas and miniseries. So the former suggestion doesn't apply.

As for the rest, while they have done bad miniseries like Earthsea and both attempts at Riverworld, they've also had some good ones -- BSG, Tin Man, The Lost Room. So what you're calling the best-case scenario is really closer to the worst-case one.
James Nicoll
28. JamesDavisNicoll
BSG started falling apart by what, late second season? And I though Tin Man was just another grim meathook reimagining of a classic work. Didn't see Lost Room.
Christopher Bennett
29. ChristopherLBennett
@28: Maybe those weren't exactly great miniseries, but the point is that they have done better miniseries than the "best-case" example you offered.
Chris Blanchard
30. Ravenslair38
Tin Man while more of a steam punk version of Oz i thuroughly enjoyed its take on Oz was both new and fresh giving an old classic new life and a chance to bring in a new audience to a classic work. As for both riverwolrd adaption i was so thoroughly disgusted by them i try not to think of them. BSG on the other had was terrific from start to finish i would have liked to have seen more from their spin off series Caprica which was canceled after the first season, it had tremendous potential for new story telling in the Pre Cyclon wars Era. When and if Ringworld makes it to screen i am hoping that the Kzin look how they have been pictured on the covers of the man kzin war novels Larry Wrote as opposed to some dummed down version with lesser production values.
Christopher Bennett
31. ChristopherLBennett
@30: A point of clarification: Larry Niven wrote no Man-Kzin War novels. He never liked writing war stories, so he started the Man-Kzin War anthology series to let other authors write short stories or novellas about that part of Known Space history. I believe he only ever contributed one original story, "Madness Has Its Place," to that series. Any novels published under the MKW banner were fixups of stories by authors other than Niven, such as Poul Anderson's Inconstant Star.

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