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Seldon Blue

By Steven Lloyd Wilson | Industry | March 4, 2010 |

By Steven Lloyd Wilson | Industry | March 4, 2010 |

We first heard of Roland Emmerich’s plan to desecrate 20th century science fiction back in October, noting:

Foundation is the legendary science fiction series by Isaac Asimov, telling the story of the fall of the 10,000-year Galactic Empire into a new dark age, a dark age foreseen by predictive social scientists such that they plan for it, in order to minimize its effect. The tale spans millennia, has no continuous characters running throughout, was originally published as a series of short stories, and is considered one of the greatest works of science fiction of the twentieth century. Naturally Roland Emmerich is planning a trilogy of movies. *Twitch*

Today Emmerich announced that he plans on using the technology of Avatar to shoot the films in 3D.

Did he read the novels? There are no fucking aliens. What is he going to use the face-mapping technology for? Mapping his wife’s face onto his mistress’s body so it’s not technically cheating? The novels are essentially one conversation after another, beautiful constructs of thought experiments and philosophy, but almost nothing in the way of action.

Here’s what Asimov himself said about the original Foundation trilogy once he began working on a fourth volume:

I picked up my own copy of The Foundation Trilogy and began reading.

I had to. For one thing, I hadn’t read the Trilogy in thirty years and while I remembered the general plot, I did not remember the details. Besides, before beginning a new Foundation novel I had to immerse myself in the style and atmosphere of the series.

I read it with mounting uneasiness. I kept waiting for something to happen, and nothing ever did.

All three volumes, all the nearly quarter of a million words, consisted of thoughts and of conversations. No action. No physical suspense.

What was all the fuss about, then? Why did everyone want more of that stuff? — To be sure, I couldn’t help but notice that I was turning the pages eagerly, and that I was upset when I finished the book, and that I wanted more, but I was the author, for goodness’ sake. You couldn’t go by me.

I was on the edge of deciding it was all a terrible mistake and of insisting on giving back the money, when (quite by accident, I swear) I came across some sentences by science-fiction writer and critic, James Gunn, who, in connection with the Foundation series, said, “Action and romance have little to do with the success of the Trilogy — virtually all the action takes place offstage, and the romance is almost invisible — but the stories provide a detective-story fascination with the permutations and reversals of ideas.”

Oh, well, if what was needed were “permutations and reversals of ideas,” then that I could supply. Panic receded.

Look, the fact that Emmerich wants to do this set of films at all is genuinely admirable. There is no quick buck to be made here, no expectation of a $100 million opening weekend. You can miss the point, be a charlatan and want to make Lord of the Rings because of the giant fantasy battles, you can miss the point, be a heretic and want to make Dune because of the mile long sand worms and explosions. But you can’t miss the point and want to make Foundation … if you miss the point then you’re just bored by all the conversations and rambling. So Emmerich must want to really make a Foundation film right.

But the problem is that Emmerich has not managed to date to prove that he can make a film up to par with this source material, and announcements like wanting to use Avatar’s 3D just hammers home that point. The starting point of wisdom is in knowing what you aren’t capable of. Roland, if you really do care for this source material as it seems you must, ask yourself honestly if yours should be the hands at this helm.

(source: SciFi Wire)

Steven Lloyd Wilson is the sci-fi and history editor. You can email him here or follow him on Twitter.

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