Monday, November 15, 2010

How About Masters of Fantasy?

Showtime’s Masters of Horror was in the grand tradition of TV horror anthologies and aired over two seasons from 2005-2007. It featured famous names in horror film (Argento, Gordon, Carpenter, Miike, and Hooper, among others) directing episodes, several of which were based on famous short-stories, or stories by famous authors, including Lovecraft, Barker, Bierce, Matheson, and Lansdale.

Masters of Science Fiction was a short-lived ABC show with a similar premise, though devoted, as the title suggests, to a different genre. It featured adaptations of stories by Robert Heinlein, Harlan Ellison, and Robert Sheckley among others.

It would seem to me that in the wake of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the Harry Potter films, and with A Game of Thrones on its way to HBO, the way might be paved for a fantasy anthology--a Masters of Fantasy, perhaps?
In thinking of stories to adapt, one would have to think of things that could be done justice in an hour time-frame, in the budgets it would likely have, and for the audience of cable TV. Like the anthologies mentioned above, a mixture of classics and new stories would probably be what we’d see.  Of course, while their would probably be a temptation to go with stories set in the modern era, what I'd want to see would be a mixture of settings, both mundane and fantastic. 

Here are some stories, off the top of my head, I think would work in those parameters:
  • “The Charnel God” by Clark Ashton Smith
  • “People of the Dark” by Robert E. Howard
  • “Only the End of the World Again” by Neil Gaiman. (I would love to see “Murder Mysteries” but it might be a bit ambitious)
  • “Undertow” Karl Edward Wagner
  • “O Ugly Bird!” by Manly Wade Wellman
  • “Mai-Kulala” by Charles R. Saunders
  • “The Sustenance of Hoak” by Ramsey Campbell
  • “The Cloud of Hate” by Fritz Leiber
What about you guys: What would you like to see? What would work?


Jim Shelley said...

Good choices of stories! I would add a Solomon Kane story to the list, though I'm hard pressed to pick a favorite right off the bat.

Gothridge Manor said...

I would love them to do something like this, but for some reason it seems hard to get a good fantasy. Most of the time it comes off campy. While goofy fun stuff is fine its not going to get me to come back. "The Charnel God" is the only one on the list I've read and would like to see a something along those lines being produced.

Evan said...

I might go with a different Leiber story. Probably "Thieves' House" or "Jewels in the Forest." I'd wager you could do "Thieves' House" with a pretty low budget (for a fantasy film). Otherwise I like this list.

One problem of course is that Masters of Horror is designed to show off Horror directors. Stuart Gordon did both a Lovecraft and a Poe story but the purpose of those episodes was to show off Gordon not the authors. I don't think we could muster the "greatest Fantasy directors" because I don't think they exist.

Unknown said...

Man or man, it would be great to see some Leiber on the small screen. I think Jewels in the Forest would be a fine first choice (though Il Met would be better if you hoped to continue with subsequent stories involving the twain).

I have harder time remembering Fantasy short stories than I do novels (other than Leiber or Howard), but I know that I've read some fine stories by Gaiman or De Lint that would be fun to see as part of an anthology. Come to think of it, I think Gaiman's Shakespeare story from Sandman would be a great choice (no reason to not raid graphic novels).

Seth said...

Wow, I would -love- this.

I was just lamenting to my girlfriend (who listened patiently, bless her) last night about how little fantasy gets presented in film. I was especially frustrated that what we do see is so Euro-centric; I'd love some more fantasy set in Africa, or using African themes.

Howard had that great...was it Solomon Kane?...story with the werewolf in the castle in Africa.

Trey said...

@Evan - While that's true about the directors of MoH, that really wasn't true of Masters of Science Fiction so I don't think its an absolutely requirement.

@Risus - "Ill Met..." is my favorite, but I thought it was (a) a little long and (b) worked better if you knew (and loved the characters) so not the best for an anthology. "Cloud of Hate" does have either of those problems, though it would require a little SyFy-esque CGI. Still, if you wanna talk Fafhrd & Gray Mouser: The Series, I'd be game. ;)

@Seth - I believe that story is called "Wolfshead" (of course, saying that without looking it up, I'm sure to be wrong). It isn't a Solomon Kane yarn. That's absolutely a story that would work, though.

Brian Murphy said...

I love the idea, and great post by the way! Here's a few short stories I'd like to see adapted for Masters of Fantasy:

The Barrow-Troll, David Drake

The God in the Bowl, Robert E. Howard

The Serpent Kingdom, REH (couldn't pick just one)

The Sword of Welleran, Lord Dunsany

The Valor of Cappen Varra, Poul Anderson

Anything by Fritz Leiber (perhaps "Sadness of the Executioner")

Trey said...

Thanks, Brian. Those are great suggestions (though I haven't read "The Barrow-Troll")--particularly "The Serpent Kingdom" and "The Valor of Cappen Varra."

Speaking of David Drake, I'd love to see an adaption of "Killer"--I didn't put it here, because it's technically science fiction. Actually I think the novel version would make a great feature film.

Unknown said...

Good choice on Wellman.

Brian Murphy said...

I haven't read "Killer," but if you can find a copy of "The Barrow-Troll" I highly recommend it. It's a wonderful melding of fantasy and horror. I blogged about it a while back on The Cimmerian, and while doing some research I discovered that "The Barrow Troll" has appeared in nine different publications over 30 years. It was also one of only four short stories to be nominated for a World Fantasy Award in 1976.

Trey said...

I'll have to track that down. "Killer" is a short-story (later expanded to a novel) Drake co-wrote with Karl Wagner. It's about a Roman beastmaster tracking an alien killing machine in Diocletian's Rome.

Taranaich said...

I've often wondered why this hasn't been done before. Fantasy's been big since Jacksons' LotR came out.

My six picks would just be from the Weird Tales authors (with two exceptions):

"The Hoard of the Gibbelins" - Lord Dunsany
"Black God's Kiss" - C.L. Moore
"The Women of the Woods" - A. Merritt
"The Dark Man" - Robert E. Howard
"The Empire of the Necromancers" - Clark Ashton Smith
"Undertow" by Karl Edward Wagner

Some might be weird or expensive choices, but it's my list dammit!

Trey said...

Hey, Taranaich. Good picks, and we both thought of "Undertow."