Monday, December 18, 2023

Edward M. Lerner's "Life and Death on Mars"

Edward M. Lerner worked in high tech and aerospace for thirty years, as everything from engineer to senior vice president, for much of that time writing science fiction as his hobby. Since 2004, he has written full-time.

His novels range from near-future techno-thrillers, like Small Miracles and Energized, to traditional SF, like Déjà Doomed and his InterstellarNet series, to (collaborating with Larry Niven) the space-opera epic Fleet of Worlds series. Lerner’s 2015 novel, InterstellarNet: Enigma, won the inaugural Canopus Award “honoring excellence in interstellar writing.” His fiction has also been nominated for Locus, Prometheus, and Hugo awards.

Lerner’s short fiction has appeared in anthologies, collections, and many of the usual SF magazines and websites. He also writes about science and technology, notably including Tropeing the Light Fantastic: The Science Behind the Fiction.

Here, Lerner dreamcasts a screen adaptation of his latest novel, Life and Death on Mars:
Let’s start with the novel itself: near-future adventure set mainly—no surprise, given its title—on and near Mars. The action kicks off with a Space Race to make the Sixties competition with the Soviets seem lackadaisical. Making matters more exciting, beyond American and Chinese expeditions is another, bankrolled by a mysterious cabal of Earth’s billionaires.

And then we have …
The face scarcely seemed human. Scarcely seemed a face.

Bloated, purple-mottled flesh, the swollen lips almost black. Oozing pustules. Tissues peeling and flaking, even to scattered glimpses of muscle and bone. The nose little more than naked, pitted cartilage. Eyes, except for anime-sized black pupils, all blood-red. Had it not been for the snaky, sweat-soaked tresses, languidly adrift like some somnolent Medusa, even to speculate at a gender would have been impossible.

Yet there could be no question who, or where, this was.
Those are only the novel’s opening paragraphs! How can this book not become a movie? Think The Martian meets For All Mankind … with a deadly plague added.

Okay, on to casting.

First comes Alexander (Xander) Hopkins, the NASA engineer dragooned into the crew of the NASA-led mission. He’s something of a smart aleck—and he’d best learn to tamp that down. Just as he’d best figure out why people are dying. Or maybe he’ll join them. Or maybe everyone on Earth will. For Xander, I’d suggest Alan Tudyk (Resident Alien, Dollhouse, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, Santa Clarita Diet … okay, what hasn’t he been in?). I’m mainly picturing Tudyk’s cocky pilot character in Firefly and Serenity.

Second is Wang Kai, crewman in the CMSA-led mission. Kai is deflecting from the painful memory of his wife’s recent tragic death as much as he’s blazing a trail to Mars. He’s technically military, because there’s no other way to become a taikonaut. He never expected military training to matter—until his commander is killed and it may have been sabotage. I see Garrett Wang (aka, Ensign Harry Kim of Star Trek Voyager) as Kai.

Maria Theresa (Teri) Rodriquez heads the Mars mission for a plutocratic cabal. Teri is tough as nails and yet vulnerable. That her bosses are seldom candid about their endgame has rendered her life complicated—even before a fatal accident to her team. As Teri I’d cast Michelle Rodriquez (Lost, Resident Evil, Avatar).

Next is Dale Bennigan, presidential science adviser and onetime research microbiologist. Can people set boot on Mars without contaminating possible native life there? Can robots? Can samples be brought to Earth without endangering humanity? Those questions become pressing when ancient traces of life are found. Those questions become personal when the secretive Planetary Protection League takes matters into its own hands. For Dale, I’d cast Amanda Tapping (Stargate SG-1, Sanctuary, Travelers).

I’ll end with a minor (but important and recurring) role: the president herself. For the cynical, calculating Carla DeMille—Cruella to Washington insiders—I see Amy Acker (Angel, Alias, Dollhouse), mainly picturing her star turn as Root in Person of Interest).

Hollywood, are you listening?
Learn more about the author and his work at his website.

The Page 99 Test: Small Miracles.

The Page 69 Test: Fools’ Experiments.

The Page 69 Test: InterstellarNet: Origins.

My Book, The Movie: InterstellarNet: Origins.

My Book, The Movie: Déjà Doomed.

The Page 69 Test: Déjà Doomed.

Q&A with Edward M. Lerner.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 4, 2023

Chris McKinney's "Sunset, Water City"

Chris McKinney was born and raised in Hawaiʻi, on the island of Oahu. He has written nine novels, including The Tattoo and The Queen of Tears, a coauthored memoir, and the screenplays for two feature films and two short films. He is the winner of the Elliott Cades Award and seven Kapalapala Poʻokela Awards and has been appointed Visiting Distinguished Writer at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa.

Here McKinney shares some thoughts on an adaptation of his new novel, Sunset, Water City, Book 3 of the Water City Trilogy:
Cartoons! Well, more specifically anime. I’d love for this post-apocalyptic world and its characters, who all have special abilities, to be animated in the style of Monster or Ghost in the Shell, the “seinsen” genre of anime. There are numerous action scenes in this book, from gunfights, to the hunting of genetically engineered mythical creatures, to death defying nosedives from the mesosphere. Anime would match the energy of the book perfectly.

For voice actors, my list of impossible to get talent would include Denzel Washington as the world-weary father, Florence Pugh as the cynical yet idealistic daughter, and Gemma Chan as Ascalon Lee—the woman who controls Water City. Rila Fukushima would be great as Akira Kimura, the scientist responsible for this post-apocalyptic world. Please let Netflix know.

I recently binge-watched Blue Eye Samurai, which is fantastic. I found it interesting that the series was made by a French production company. It would be a dream come true if my book and this series fell into the hands of a company like that.
Visit Chris McKinney's website.

The Page 69 Test: Sunset, Water City.

Q&A with Chris McKinney.

--Marshal Zeringue