Episode #197: Wake Up, Wakefield

In this episode, Adaptation covers the short story Wakefield by E.L. Doctorow and the film based on it. With a very dislikable character at the forefront, it gives the hosts lots to discuss.

Question(s) of the Week: What is a fitting punishment for Wakefield? How you would you react to his return?

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Interview: Robin Swicord on Wakefield

Kendyl interviews writer and director Robin Swicord about her film Wakefield (2016), based on the E.L. Doctorow short story of the same name which follows the strange and complex journey of a man who secretly starts living above his own garage, watching his family go about their lives in his absence.

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Episode #179: Arrival of Your Life

header179Dorin and Kendyl discuss “Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang and Arrival (2016), get into the paradox of the Book of Life, and wonder at how the adaptation amped up the dramatics.

Question(s) of the Week: Were the added dramatics of the movie worth it? And for the bonus round, did you understand/interpret the story and movie differently than we discussed?

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Vlog: Seven Sobbin’ Women for Seven Brothers

Kendyl breaks down the differences between Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954) and the short story it’s based on.

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Where Are All You Zombies?: How Predestination Swirled Up My Brain

predestinationRecently, a commenter turned us onto the film Predestination (2014) and the short story it is based on, “All You Zombies”, written by Robert A. Heinlein in 1958, so I checked them out.

Do not be misled by the short story title, neither the story nor the film have anything to do with actual zombies. The only mention of zombies is the same in each: “I know where I come from- but where do all you zombies come from?” Instead it has to do with time travel and paradoxes. The short story is a feat because, although these days time travel and time paradoxes are almost cliché, this was the first of its kind. Building off the fictional device created in the mind of H.G. Wells, the time machine, Heinlein creates a situation that is one of a kind.

The film starred Ethan Hawke and Australians Sarah Snook and Noah Taylor. Sarah Snook won the well-deserved AACTA award for Best Actress for it. The Spierig brothers directed and filmed it in Melbourne, Australia – though it takes place in America.

From here on, I will be spoiling both (but scroll to the end for a spoiler-free wrap up).

This film made my nose bleed. Not literally, of course, but it is the kind of movie that if you think about it too hard, you might have an aneurism and blood will shoot out your nose. This is not to say that it is a bad film, in fact, I enjoyed it, but things can feel a bit convoluted when dealing with time paradoxes or time travel in general. As the doctor says, “time isn’t linear…it is like a big ball of wibbly wobbly, timey wimey… stuff”, that is how this movie is presented.

61vjhNvaWTL._SL300_Ethan Hawke’s character is a time agent who has just recovered from a serious injury while after his foe The Fizzle Bomber. He jumps back in time and strikes up a conversation with a man, who writes confessionals under the pen name “The Unmarried Mother”. Because of that strange pen name, we then get a bet for a bottle of booze and this man’s life story, which begins “when I was a little girl…”. Sarah Snook played this character, Jane when a girl – John as a man.

This story takes a while, and unlike the short story, we don’t really know why we are hearing it until after it is over. But after learning about a man that “The Unmarried Mother” fell for, was left by, bore a child by, and ruined him completely, Ethan Hawke asks, “if you saw him again and knew you would get away with it, would you kill him?” This sparks most of the time travel in the film and this is where it frays and makes your head hurt, in a good and crazy way.

We already knew that the woman from the story and the man that was in the bar are the same person, but when they go back so this man can find the man who ruined his life, the only person he bumps into is himself, or rather herself. Come to fund out, he dated himself and bore a child with himself.


imageThen Ethan Hawke goes to the hospital to snatch the child and drop it off at the orphanage, the same date and place where Jane was left. This means that the baby that this one person had by himself, the baby is also the same character. All Jane/John. Ethan Hawke recruits John to his time agency and says, “now that you know who she is, you now know who you are, and if you think about it you will know who the baby is and who I am.” Or something of the like, which would make you think that Ethan Hawke is the child, but if that is that case, he is also Jane/John.

To put the sprinkles on this swirly cake of madness, after he recruits himself, he is then decommissioned as an agent, and for his last placement, he chooses to go after his nemesis, The Fizzle Bomber. If you get the drift at this point, you would not be surprised when – BLAM – Jane/John/Time Agent is also, The Fizzle Bomber. The film basically ends with young Ethan Hawke killing his bomber self and claiming that he would never turn into that guy. But aren’t some things predestined?

Trying to connect all the dots and trying to think, “if he recruited himself then how…?” And just trying to tie all the ends together to make something more linear and comprehensible, but you really can’t. It just keeps swirling around in your head.

The film is really a great adaptation of the story, and I actually feel it improves upon it. The way the story is laid out, finding out who the child is and reveals like that are not as dynamic, but I watched the film first, so I knew all the twists. Still, I wondered if I would have understood all of it without having seen the film.


predestination watched

The film expanded on what was on the page, only changing a few minor things and adding in a few characters, like The Fizzle Bomber, who is just a Fizzle War that barely happened because of the time agents work in the story.

The film really understood the idea of a time paradox and played off it well, as well as the themes and tone. Once I got the idea of where it was going, I did predict much of the ending, but it did not make it any less enjoyable. It is all a bit mad, but I like a bit of madness.

I would recommend the story to everyone. The film on the other hand, although I do like it, might be too much to handle for some people (see meme below). The story is a bit toned down and easier to swallow, but the film is a bit more fun. However, I think I know where all the zombies come from… they come from watching this film.


Staff Recommendations – January 2015

The Adaptation staff have started the new year off right with these recommendations for January! What have you been into this month?

Void by Rhiannon Lassiter

I have been reading through Void, which is a compilation of three novels published in the 90s. The first one is called Hex, and I’ve just finished that one. The basic premise is about a dystopia future where certain people – called Hexes – are being rounded up and exterminated because they have special abilities to control technology. It’s almost a psychic connection with the World Wide Web. Anyway, one of these is a particularly gifted Hex named Raven, and she and her brother are on a search for their younger sister, who was separated from them years ago and who may or may not have just come on the government’s radar as being a Hex herself.


Agent Carter, Tuesdays on ABC

I have to recommend Agent Carter! I didn’t really get into Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D. sadly, but I knew I would love this. It’s fab, so good. She’s a fabulous powerful woman who uses the sexist norm of the 40’s against all the men. I love it. And, and, AND! Holy crap Chad Michael Murray! I did not recognize him for so long, they styled him so well, and he is suited to this part so well. So many good people in this show and I was hooked by first episode.


Fledgling by Octavia Butler

I’m reading Octavia Buterly’s Fledgling, it’s a novel about Shori genetically altered part human (African American) vampire. An attack on her human/vampire compound leaves her badly injured, without her memory and the only survivor. I read a portion of this I college and now I started from the beginning again, but this book lives in grey areas so I’m having mixed feels.


The Princess and the Queen by George R. R. Martin

A short story from the A Song of Ice and Fire universe, this story is part of an anthology called Dangerous Woman edited by George R. R. Martin. When King Viserys dies, he leaves a daughter, Princess Rhaenyra, from his first marriage and a son, Price Aegon from his second. The queen wishes her son to take the throne, but as his first born Princess Rhaenyra feels it is her birth right, resulting in a civil war between the Targaryens that results in the supposed extinction of the dragons. The story has great background information for Targaryen fans and is pretty fast-paced for Martin’s normal writing style.



Cutthroat Kitchen, Season 7 starts February 15th on the Food Network

Being a rather busy bee, I’ve been watching a lot of shows that I don’t have to focus all my attention on. Unfortunately, although I don’t have to watch every second of Cutthroat Kitchen, I always end up wanting to anyway. Hosted by Alton Brown, four chefs are eliminated in three rounds, each with its own theme, like they all have to make chili or muffins or sausage. They each start with $25,000 and every round several things are auctioned off to them that will either make it easier for the winner or harder for their opponents. For example, they can take away the privilege of using a muffin pan or be the only one allowed to use a sausage stuffer. It’s pretty entertaining to watch the chefs screw each other over and really interesting to see how they get around the obstacles.


That’s it for us this month, but be sure to leave your own recommendations in the comments!

What really makes a good adaptation?

Here at Adaptation, we are soon to be recording our 100th podcast and we just passed the one-year anniversary of our YouTube channel. *Pops the champagne*

So let’s take a moment to discuss the foundation of what we do…

 What makes a good adaptation?

It’s a funny thing to discuss because I often wonder if it is a matter of opinion or biased by what a reader feels or knows about the story and characters.

Let’s look at a few examples of different adaptations:

 Atonement (2007) – based on the novel by Ian McEwan

This is an example of a “perfect” adaptation. I put the quotes around perfect because I mean it in no way as a definitive “this is a perfect adaptation” and more of a description of how it translated book to movie. This type of adaptation is one that is more literal.

I had read the book a few years before the film opened and I was amazed at how the film was really just a visual version of the book. I thought to myself, “Now this is a great adaptation”, until I told my parents, whom I had been watching the film with, why I felt that way. I asked them “Do you want to read the book? I have it.” However, because I said that the film was exactly like the book they said no. Why would they bother?

That saddened me because I absolutely loved the book, and it is something that we have mentioned in podcasts: We like it when the movie makes you want to read the book (again) and vice versa.

The thing is, even when I gripe and nit-pick at some of the films on podcasts here, when we talk about an adaptation, I do feel that there should be signs of someone’s interpretation. But how much should be strictly accurate and what exactly should be up for the creator’s interpretation?

 My Sister’s Keeper (2009) – based on the novel by Jodi Picoult

I saw this film without having read the novel and I really liked the film. Of course, those of my friends, on and off the podcast team, who had read the book, were infuriated! The ending was completely different from the book; in fact you could say they made it totally opposite.

Now, we always try to say here at Adaptation that books and films are two different animals and we have to keep them separated. I agree, and I try- oh how I try- but is there a breaking point? Was it right or wrong of the filmmakers to change the ending? Did they feel that the ending they used was a little more believable or true to life? Does that matter?

The film itself had good pacing, character development, and acting. It flowed together well and was never slow or boring or abrupt. So, would we consider it a good adaptation? Or just a good film?

 Stardust (2007) based on the novel by Neil Gaiman

This is one of those adaptations that came out nearly 10 years after I had read the book. Yet, this book is one that was so unique and such a great read that it stuck with me all that time. When the film was about to be released, after working on it with the filmmakers, Neil blogged a warning to readers and lovers of the book: “The movie will be different”.

I was so glad for that because when I saw the film I expected changes. I even wish I could have known about them in  more detail, because it had been so long since I’d read the book. While watching the film, I wasn’t always sure if something had been in the book or not. But5 maybe that is not such a bad thing.

However, there were many things that I knew for sure where not in the book, and some of them were things that I felt changed the feeling of the story. The book was much darker and grittier than the film, which was produced by Disney. They really did Disney it up with a happily-ever-after and things of the like. It was a family friendly movie that many kids and parents alike enjoyed.

So, can I really knock it? Was it so bad for me that I can call it a bad adaptation? Most of the story was intact and the ending wasn’t so different, unlike my previous example. It spread the word about the novel and more people now know who Neil Gaiman is… but still the feel was different.

Total Recall (1990 & 2012*) and Blade Runner (1982) based on Philip K. Dick’s short story “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale” and novel Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheeprespectively

*Technically the 2012 version is an adaptation of the original film and neither the short story nor P. K. Dick is credited.

Here are examples of taking either a very short story or a vague idea and running with them.

Total Recall’s original material is much shorter than you would expect and not nearly the number of characters in the film (1990). Basically, the idea of the character having memories in his head that have been implanted, who later finds out that there is something more going on. But in both screenplays, the story is much more out there than in the original work. They required so much expansion.

Blade Runner’s original novel is similar. Again, the ideas were in the film where Androids are trying to pass themselves off as human, and a bounty hunter is out to retire them, but there are so many things that were cut and others that were added.

I can’t say for sure that the reception for Total Recall in 1990 was a good one, but I know that Blade Runner by Ridely Scott is still considered a great film and the director’s cut version was even reviewed very recently by The Telegraph, saying that it “is a masterpiece of dystopian science fiction on film”. I myself love both of these films and was honestly surprised to read the original material. I love both written and screen work for different reasons- and dislike them for different reasons.

Is this a case of interpretation being the right thing?

Conclusion- if there can be one

Even after thinking about these examples of adaptations (and there are countless more, just check out our podcasts), it is hard to really pinpoint what makes a good adaptation. I would not want to leave this post without some conclusion, but maybe there just isn’t a definitive one. All I have is my opinion, and I can’t say that it hasn’t changed depending on what adaptation we are discussing.

From these examples, in my humble opinion, this is what makes a good adaptation:

  • The overall feel and/or tone is the same
  • The changes mean something: i.e. if they took something in a different direction, they made sure to keep continuity with it and did not half-ass it, leading to a “why did they even bother?” moment
  • If they needed to add to the story, such as with a short story, following a set cannon, if possible, is the best bet. If not, see first bullet point.
  • The so-called adaptation did not seem like they had read the synopsis of the story and then run with it in whatever direction they felt without really consulting the original material. (This can be debatable, of course, because if they expand on the story beyond the original material, much like the previous bullet point, it can become an amazing piece of work)
  • While it is not necessary to stick to the story exactly, the changes or additions need to add something to the whole of the story.
    (Kick Ass 1 & 2, might be considered good examples of this)
  • AND (most importantly) it was an enjoyable experience! Because if it wasn’t, that is already an indicator that it was not very good.

In the end, I do think that it is a matter of opinion on whether an adaptation is done well or not. It is sometimes easier to say when it was not done well at all (*coughs* Al. Vamp. Hunt. Dig.).

What do you think? What can I add to my list on what makes a good adaptation? Do you agree or disagree with me on either good adaptations in general, or one of my examples?

TRB: Behind the Scenes of Chase Pifer’s ‘Non-Compliant’

Those listeners that have been around a while might remember this guy!

River Ram Press #InspireWriters #InspireReaders

This past April, I was fortunate to be featured as the Ram Boutique Highlighted Author of the month. Of course, with such an honor comes the responsibility of selecting something worthy to submit. In my case, this meant filtering through a long list of short stories written in a genre blending that is not so commonly seen today. The process was challenging, and as a result also quite rewarding.

I’ve had an interest in utopian and dystopian literature since before my first year at university, and more recently have developed a fascination with blending these two distinct styles with elements of direct socio-political philosophy. This offers me a truly broad range of inspirational works, including George Orwell’s 1984, Sun Tzu’s The Art Of War, John Locke’s Second Treatise on Government, and Machiavelli’s The Prince, to name a few.

With such a wonderfully rich body of source material to work from…

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Author Spotlight Vlog: Philip K. Dick

In which Kendyl presents our first ever author spotlight, covering the works of Philip K. Dick.


Related Podcasts:

#17: Arnold’s Muscles of Doom (Total Recall)

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty: A short story, a 1947 film and a 2013 film adaptation

I’m not sure that it’s common knowledge that The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is adapted from a short story, but the current film is actually the second attempt to tell Walter’s story on film. The original short story was written by James Thurber in 1942, a film adaptation starring the comedic and musically-inclined Danny Kaye was made in 1947 and the recently released film has Ben Stiller both directing and starring in the title role. So, last week I made a day of it, reading the story and watching both films. And for your informative pleasure, I am now going to review all three, sans spoilers.

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Adaptation #35: I Am a Zombie Pregnant with Importance

header035After seeing Jonathan Levine’s film Warm Bodies, the hosts discuss its merits as a film as well as its differences from the original novel. They also spend some time debating the cheese factor, the attractiveness of Rob Corddry and R’s hipster-emo tendencies.

Also check out our episode on the novel by Isaac Marion!

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Adaptation #17: Arnold’s Muscles of Doom

Hosts Kendyl, Dorin, Ryan and Chase get together to discuss Philip K. Dick’s short story We Can Remember It For You, Wholesale and its two movie adaptations: Paul Verhoeven’s 1990 Total Recall and the current Len Wiseman remake.

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‘Total Recall’ Remake Releases a New Trailer

Two admissions: one, I am a big fan of Philip K. Dick and two, I have never seen the 1990 Arnold Schwartzenegger version of Total Recall.

I know, I know. How can I call myself a fan? Honestly, P.K. Dick’s short story We Can Remember It For You, Wholesale (1966) was enough for me. I didn’t feel like I needed to see some pumped up action film to appreciate the simple genius of the story. Please, feel free to correct this assumption in the comments.

And now I find myself in a bit of a dilemma as there is a remake coming out. Starring Colin Farrell. And if I see it, it’s going to look like I went for the eye candy. To correct this, Adaptation will be doing an episode where we talk about the story and both films. But while we wait for the film to be released, here’s the new trailer to tide you over:

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Adaptation #9: Snow White and the Stranger Danger

Everyone is back to talk about the Grimm Brothers’ Little Snow White and Tarsem Singh’s Mirror, Mirror (2012) plus many other interesting and occasionally disturbing adaptations of the classic fairytale.