View Full Version : Earthsea on TV

Lazarus and the Gimp
22-11-2004, 20:48:49

I just hope to God they don't try turning it into Harry Potter.

22-11-2004, 21:54:10
Hope all you like. Would you prefer Harry Potter or just total shit?

Lazarus and the Gimp
23-11-2004, 06:36:56
There's a difference?

23-11-2004, 09:21:43
The third Harry Potter film was actually pretty good.

Never going to be as good as the books though.

Lazarus and the Gimp
23-11-2004, 17:12:58
That's the worry with Earthsea. I'm concerned that it looks a little Hollywooded- such as playing up the love interest for Sparrowhawk. There's also the potential for blowing the suffocating atmosphere of menace in the first book.

23-11-2004, 17:18:16
worth reading the original books?

Lazarus and the Gimp
23-11-2004, 17:22:06
I think they're one of the greatest fantasy works. Le Guin is a better writer than Tolkien, for starters.

The original trilogy is great, but the 4th book was a bit dodgy.

23-11-2004, 17:24:27
I might read them again, I read them about 15 years ago and I don't remember much about them.

14-12-2004, 13:16:29
Loved them, but I was about 14 years old. The paperback copies I have are pretty battered. I've read them through at least twice, and I read Tehanu a few years ago as well. I didn't like it much either. Apparently there's a fifth book called The Other Wind.

They made him a blacksmith instead of a goatherd (I swear he herded goats!). No biggie. He leaves a girl behind when he leaves the island. Also no biggie. Lots of shortcuts to keep the story moving, which could be big, but its a necessary evil with movies. Looks like the Eaten One/Priestess will turn out to be a love interest. One of the nice twists in the book was that they only ever became friends.

They tied the Nameless One(s) from the Tombs of Atuan together with the shadow he summons at school, which isn't really accurate, but I think may work out.

Not bad for a SciFi miniseries, but I'm easily amused.

14-12-2004, 16:59:23
Watched the 1st hour it wasn't bad for SciFi

I agree with MDA

14-12-2004, 20:15:56
Originally posted by Lazarus and the Gimp
Le Guin is a better writer than Tolkien, for starters.

Most writers are better writers then Tolkien, Laz. So that's not a ringing endorsement of talent.

15-12-2004, 13:05:30
Second night was pretty bad. The whole thing felt rushed and drifted much further from the books. It ended... abruptly.

They didn't attempt to include the Farthest Shore material, which was probably a good thing.

Lazarus and the Gimp
16-12-2004, 19:54:00
Oh dear...

A Whitewashed Earthsea
How the Sci Fi Channel wrecked my books.
By Ursula K. Le Guin
Posted Thursday, Dec. 16, 2004, at 6:14 AM PT

On Tuesday night, the Sci Fi Channel aired its final installment of Legend of Earthsea, the miniseries based—loosely, as it turns out—on my Earthsea books. The books, A Wizard of Earthsea and The Tombs of Atuan, which were published more than 30 years ago, are about two young people finding out what their power, their freedom, and their responsibilities are. I don't know what the film is about. It's full of scenes from the story, arranged differently, in an entirely different plot, so that they make no sense. My protagonist is Ged, a boy with red-brown skin. In the film, he's a petulant white kid. Readers who've been wondering why I "let them change the story" may find some answers here.

When I sold the rights to Earthsea a few years ago, my contract gave me the standard status of "consultant"—which means whatever the producers want it to mean, almost always little or nothing. My agency could not improve this clause. But the purchasers talked as though they genuinely meant to respect the books and to ask for my input when planning the film. They said they had already secured Philippa Boyens (who wrote the scripts for The Fellowship of the Rings) as principal script writer. The script was, to me, all-important, so Boyens' presence was the key factor in my decision to sell this group the option to the film rights.

Months went by. By the time the producers got backing from the Sci Fi Channel for a miniseries—and another producer, Robert Halmi Sr., had come aboard—they had lost Boyens. That was a blow. But I had just seen Halmi's miniseries DreamKeeper, which had a stunning Native American cast, and I hoped that Halmi might include some of those great actors in Earthsea.

At this point, things began to move very fast. Early on, the filmmakers contacted me in a friendly fashion, and I responded in kind; I asked if they'd like to have a list of name pronunciations; and I said that although I knew that a film must differ greatly from a book, I hoped they were making no unnecessary changes in the plot or to the characters—a dangerous thing to do, since the books have been known to millions of people for decades. They replied that the TV audience is much larger, and entirely different, and would be unlikely to care about changes to the books' story and characters.

They then sent me several versions of the script—and told me that shooting had already begun. I had been cut out of the process. And just as quickly, race, which had been a crucial element, had been cut out of my stories. In the miniseries, Danny Glover is the only man of color among the main characters (although there are a few others among the spear-carriers). A far cry from the Earthsea I envisioned. When I looked over the script, I realized the producers had no understanding of what the books are about and no interest in finding out. All they intended was to use the name Earthsea, and some of the scenes from the books, in a generic McMagic movie with a meaningless plot based on sex and violence.

Most of the characters in my fantasy and far-future science fiction books are not white. They're mixed; they're rainbow. In my first big science fiction novel, The Left Hand of Darkness, the only person from Earth is a black man, and everybody else in the book is Inuit (or Tibetan) brown. In the two fantasy novels the miniseries is "based on," everybody is brown or copper-red or black, except the Kargish people in the East and their descendants in the Archipelago, who are white, with fair or dark hair. The central character Tenar, a Karg, is a white brunette. Ged, an Archipelagan, is red-brown. His friend, Vetch, is black. In the miniseries, Tenar is played by Smallville's Kristin Kreuk, the only person in the miniseries who looks at all Asian. Ged and Vetch are white.

My color scheme was conscious and deliberate from the start. I didn't see why everybody in science fiction had to be a honky named Bob or Joe or Bill. I didn't see why everybody in heroic fantasy had to be white (and why all the leading women had "violet eyes"). It didn't even make sense. Whites are a minority on Earth now—why wouldn't they still be either a minority, or just swallowed up in the larger colored gene pool, in the future?

The fantasy tradition I was writing in came from Northern Europe, which is why it was about white people. I'm white, but not European. My people could be any color I liked, and I like red and brown and black. I was a little wily about my color scheme. I figured some white kids (the books were published for "young adults") might not identify straight off with a brown kid, so I kind of eased the information about skin color in by degrees—hoping that the reader would get "into Ged's skin" and only then discover it wasn't a white one.

I was never questioned about this by any editor. No objection was ever raised. I think this is greatly to the credit of my first editors at Parnassus and Atheneum, who bought the books before they had a reputation to carry them.

But I had endless trouble with cover art. Not on the great cover of the first edition—a strong, red-brown profile of Ged—or with Margaret Chodos Irvine's four fine paintings on the Atheneum hardcover set, but all too often. The first British Wizard was this pallid, droopy, lily-like guy—I screamed at sight of him.

Gradually I got a little more clout, a little more say-so about covers. And very, very, very gradually publishers may be beginning to lose their blind fear of putting a nonwhite face on the cover of a book. "Hurts sales, hurts sales" is the mantra. Yeah, so? On my books, Ged with a white face is a lie, a betrayal—a betrayal of the book, and of the potential reader.

I think it is possible that some readers never even notice what color the people in the story are. Don't notice, don't care. Whites of course have the privilege of not caring, of being "colorblind." Nobody else does.

I have heard, not often, but very memorably, from readers of color who told me that the Earthsea books were the only books in the genre that they felt included in—and how much this meant to them, particularly as adolescents, when they'd found nothing to read in fantasy and science fiction except the adventures of white people in white worlds. Those letters have been a tremendous reward and true joy to me.

So far no reader of color has told me I ought to butt out, or that I got the ethnicity wrong. When they do, I'll listen. As an anthropologist's daughter, I am intensely conscious of the risk of cultural or ethnic imperialism—a white writer speaking for nonwhite people, co-opting their voice, an act of extreme arrogance. In a totally invented fantasy world, or in a far-future science fiction setting, in the rainbow world we can imagine, this risk is mitigated. That's the beauty of science fiction and fantasy—freedom of invention.

But with all freedom comes responsibility. Which is something these filmmakers seem not to understand.

16-12-2004, 20:18:22
"generic McMagic"
That is why I read very little fantasy.
A very interesting critique. Thanks Lazarus and the Gimp.
And where is this published?
Oh, yeah, this is her famous anthropologist father. http://courses.smsu.edu/waw105f/Kroeber.htm

17-12-2004, 13:50:20
I'm a little unsympathetic to her, even if her criticism is dead on. If she couldn't get some control over the movie in writing, she should have been suspicious.

Its not like I'll hold her responsible for the total remake SciFi did of her story, and I don't begrudge her any money she made from selling the rights. I'm jaded and cynical, and expect movie makers to make a hash of it more often than not.

But did she see what SciFi did to Battlestar Galactica before she sold the rights (guess not, "a few years ago" was probably too far back)? My impression is that, SciFi buys "brand names" and does what they want with them. Most of it comes out pretty shitty (I thought they did a decent job with Dune).

She sold the rights, gave up control on the basis of verbal assurances from SciFi, and got burned. She also got paid.

I guess her apparent shock and feelings of betrayal seem fabricated to me. Surely the author of those books isn't stupid enough to be "tricked" like that?

17-12-2004, 13:59:22
I totally agree with MDA. If she really cared what happened to her books then she wouldn't have signed the contract if she couldn't get some kind of artistic control.

17-12-2004, 16:09:49
Originally posted by Japher
I agree with MDA

Originally posted by fp
I totally agree with MDA

I think all this agreement makes me Captain Obvious.:nervous:

17-12-2004, 21:42:53
It's probably geniune, MDA. Even if she expected them to "Hollywoodize" her work, she probably hoped the damage would be minimal. She doesn't have the clout to get exactly what she wants, and her series actually isn't popular enough to make the producers be careful. We aren't talking about Dune, Ringworld, Tolkiens LotR, or Harry Potter, after all. They just wanted to cash in on the LotR fantasy tide. They got what they wanted. She was just shocked with their final mutilation of her art.

You can expect it, but it will still shock you just how far they mutilate it. Most people hope for far less changes to be made then is acceptable to producers aiming for "mainstream fans".

18-12-2004, 09:07:21
Originally posted by Darkstar
We aren't talking about Dune, Ringworld, Tolkiens LotR, or Harry Potter, after all. They just wanted to cash in on the LotR fantasy tide. They got what they wanted. She was just shocked with their final mutilation of her art.

You can expect it, but it will still shock you just how far they mutilate it. Most people hope for far less changes to be made then is acceptable to producers aiming for "mainstream fans".

If you and I know this is the reality of the situation, then there's no excuse for the author's to be unaware of it. I certainly wouldn't blame the author for the mutiliation of their work, but I also have absolutely no sympathy with one who cashes in on it then turns around to say "Oh my God, they killed Ged! Those bastards!".

She sold her characters down the river when she signed that contract, which given her obsession with race is an analogy I'm sure she would refute, but it's true.

18-12-2004, 11:40:52
I hate them for what they did to Riverworld.

Hate them! Hate them! Hate them!

What a piece of absolute crap...

20-12-2004, 16:48:35
I'm glad I missed it, then.

21-12-2004, 23:17:41
You missed that "key" bit, though, MDA. She justified it by saying "The guy that did LotR screenplay will be doing mine. That's great! He won't multilate it too much!" She rationalized that it would be as fucked with as normal. Of course, that's her problem, but she did put in that caveat. So you, as a sensitive reader, are supposed to take her side and curse the studio. See, she's completely guiltless in this, they double crossed her, yadda yadda barf.

22-12-2004, 18:35:50
Phillipa Boyens is a guy?

22-12-2004, 22:10:34
That wasn't a typo? Hey, whatever. And it doesn't matter in this discussion, does it? Unless you are bedding down Boyens, I suppose. ;)