So if you’ve read some of my past posts, you may remember my connection with my dad being forged through Robert Heinlein’s ‘Stranger in a Strange Land’.
Which means you think I’d be delighted to hear about this: Robert Heinlein’s Scifi Classic Stranger in a Strange Land Is Coming to TV
They’re turning ‘Stranger’ into a TV series – I assume a mini series rather than an ongoing seasonal show, but nothing has been said at all so that might be wrong. Shouldn’t I be thrilled? This book, that means so much to me, is going to be put into TV form for even more to enjoy!
But ‘Stranger’ doesn’t, in my mind, translate well to that form. Even the novel itself has a slow set up and start. When I recommend it to people it comes with the caveat “Just get past the hospital.” Most (not all, but most) people I know that didn’t care for it or never got into it fall into a group that just couldn’t get through the initial parts of the book, which mostly consist of scenes in a hospital, but the set up is needed for the rest of the book to work. In a mini-series, much less a seasonal show, this means our “grab the audience” episodes are bogged down in set up purgatory.
Heinlein also likes to leave out certain descriptions, to let the reader’s mind fill in the blanks – sometimes with a surprise when he goes back and fills in the blanks. One of the pivotal scenes in this book relies on not knowing who the second party in the scene is, a tidbit that is never revealed or clarified, and is damnably hard to do when you have voices and visuals involved.
And the sex! Whoo! ‘Stranger’ is no stranger to getting it on, especially later in the book, in a very plot necessary way – but unless we’re going with HBO, American TV seems to have some issues with sex scenes. I mean, if it’s violence, yippe-yi-kay-yay motherfucker, let’s go! But doing it… shield the children, how DARE they?! I don’t imagine Sy-Fy is ready to go down that HBO Game of Thrones road, yet.
To be honest, I’m not very afraid – I don’t think this will make it to the screen. Since Starship Troopers there hasn’t been a lot of Heinlein making it’s way to popular media, despite several false starts. For me the one that I’m still waiting on is ‘The Moon is a Harsh Mistress’ because it’s actually got a lot of potential in several different ways, and they still keep starting, stopping, promising, renegging, and otherwise teasing me but nothing will ever come of it. So ‘Stranger’ seems safe, at least for now.