Saturday, January 19, 2019

James Cambias's "Arkad's World"

James Cambias has been nominated for the James Tiptree Jr. Award and the 2001 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. He lives in Western Massachusetts.

Here Cambias dreamcasts an adaptation of his newest novel, Arkad's World:
Arkad's World would make a pretty kick-ass movie. It's got action, comedy, intrigue, and a dash of romance. It wouldn't be cheap, though. The book chronicles a journey across an alien planet, with at least four distinct unearthly landscapes and a host of alien beings. You'd pretty much have to shoot the entire thing on a soundstage in front of a green screen, and animate the rest of the world. The artwork of Thom Tenerey and Simon Stalenhag would be a good guide for what the setting looks like.

The four main characters are humans, and so could be played by real actors. Here's my dream-casting of the leads:

Arkad: His name originates in Turkish, but Arkad himself has diverse ancestry. He's fourteen (sort of) and should be small for his age, wiry, and indomitable. One sees very few boys depicted that way recently, but Finn Wolfhard, who plays the character "Mike" on the TV series Stranger Things is a good fit.

Jacob Sato: I more or less envisioned Idris Elba when I described him, so let's just go with that. Idris Elba playing Indiana Jones in space. Can you get a cooler character description than that?

Ree Bright: Ree is genetically engineered by aliens, so she should have a slightly inhuman "uncanny valley" air about her. In many ways she's the hardest to cast, if only because most actresses get their jobs precisely because they can project warmth and empathy. I think the actress Rooney Mara (from the Girl With The Dragon Tattoo film) could pull it off, as she can manage a very off-beat look and a chilly affect.

Baichi: Baichi is a superhuman blend of human and alien nanotechnology. Think of her as Superman in the body of a girl who looks about fourteen, who must tightly regulate her emotions because of what might happen if she loses control. The part requires an actress who can be both a "creepy inhuman cyborg" and the vulnerable real girl inside the mask. I think Mackenzie Foy (who was in Interstellar) with a layer of dead-white makeup could play her.

Arkad's World has a lot of alien characters, none of which are even remotely human-shaped. There will be no "rubber forehead" actors or stuntmen in costumes. All the aliens would have to be puppets, animations, or a mix of the two.

The Itooti are somewhat bird-like, so they should have voices reminiscent of birds — not melodic songbirds, though. They should sound like a cross between crows and East End London football hooligans.

Pfifu have fairly simple speech apparatus, so give them plain voices with a bit of a Daffy Duck lisp. Much of their communication is visual, using tentacle gestures. An absolute master of dance and puppetry might be able to convey those meanings to a human viewer by movement alone, but it's more likely we'd have to rely on subtitles.

The Vziim have deep, throaty voices, and keep their own languages secret from outsiders, so they would simply speak in a heavily-accented version of the pidgin common to all species on the planet. Their society is clannish, mercenary, and paranoid; perhaps they should have the cultivated but vaguely-foreign sound of Bond movie villains.

Finally, the dreaded Psthao-Psthao speak only in whispers.

I would absolutely adore seeing Arkad on the screen. I visualized everything in the story, which does mean that no film version would look precisely like what I saw inside my head as I wrote the book. But it would be fun to see how others might envision it.
Visit James L. Cambias's website.

My Book, The Movie: A Darkling Sea.

Writers Read: James L. Cambias.

--Marshal Zeringue