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January 06, 2005

Earthsea

I have not blogged the Sci Fi Channel's Earthsea adaptation because, due to protectionist Canadian broadcast regulations employing six or so people at Space: The Imagination Station, I have yet to see it. One negative review is in... from Ursula K. Le Guin (via C. Buddha).

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.

Given the impressive Sci Fi channel adaptations of Dune and Children of Dune (and Battlestar Galactica too), this is a serious disappointment. But then, I have already expressed my agreement with Le Guin on the broader issue of race and representation in speculative fiction and my frustration that Sci Fi Channel's version of Frank Herbert's characters portrayed them to be white. Imagine the uproar if, in Peter Jackson's film adaptation of Tolkien's stories, Frodo was played by, say, a Japanese or Moroccan actor and the silence on equivalent changes to Herbert or Le Guin's stories is revealing.

Posted by Ghost of a flea at January 6, 2005 05:44 AM

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