HBO will make a Foundation TV series

FoundationCoverIO9 has the details.  Apparently Jonathan Nolan, of ‘Interstellar’ fame, is involved.

I’m not sure how I feel about this.  The Foundation series, by Isaac Asimov, is classic golden age science fiction.  It’s one of those works that has influenced lots of other science fiction, with many common tropes originating from it.  Galactic empires?  Foundation.  An empire’s homeworld (ala Coruscant in Star Wars) being completely covered by city?  The planet Trantor in Foundation.  A mutant with superpowers able to control people’s minds?  You guessed it.  Secret societies across centuries?  Yep.

Despite these contributions to popular culture, the books are not exactly what you would call action packed.  In fact, a good deal of the stories are filled with characters engaged in discussions and debates.  In the later books, the characters all pretty much sound like Asimov debating with himself.  Of course, Asimov debating with himself was endlessly entertaining and interesting.

But I’m not sure how well that format will work for a TV show.  On top of that, the original series takes place across several generations, with the characters constantly changing.  It’s hard to see a TV show adopting that format.

And that’s why I have mixed feelings.  I’d love to see Foundation adopted well, but I fear that to make it interesting and exciting, the producers will need to make heavy changes.  And that has the possibility of going very wrong.

Still, both Jonathan Nolan and HBO have excellent reputations.  If Foundation can be adapted to a TV show in a way that won’t make us groan, they have a good chance of making it work.  Only time will tell.  I’ll be hoping that it’s done well.

9 thoughts on “HBO will make a Foundation TV series

  1. My expectations are pretty low (although ask again after I see Interstellar). TV and movies have become like old-fashioned porn with thin, poorly developed, plots and characters whipped up to support the visuals. It’s all about stirring your emotions in some way.

    SF is mainstream now, so a lot of it is McDonald’s rather than fine dining. Game of Thrones is to the modern taste for unchallenging action-fantasy soap-opera (along with all the vampire, werewolf and zombie stuff). Asimov’s Foundation series is cerebral and wordy — very much not to the modern taste. So you just know they’re gonna tart it up.

    Think Peter Jackson and The Hobbit.

    It depends. If this is done by folks trying to cash in on some famous old SF novels, and not done as a labor of love by someone who thoroughly knows the books, then I expect suckage. If it is a labor of love, then it has potential. If you distilled the books down, it’s possible you could turn out a decent series.

    And you have to ask yourself. Given all this guy has written, is there a reason folks haven’t been turning his work into movies left and right? On the other end of the spectrum is Philip Dick, who’s had a surprising number of his works adapted. Asimov was always on the wordy side, and his characters all sound like him.

    (Don’t get me wrong… love the guy. His Lucky Starr books, when I was a kid, were my entry into SF (and I’ve never left 😀 ).


    1. Wow, I haven’t thought about the Lucky Starr books in years. I agree with everything you said. Hopefully with Jonathan Nolan, we’re getting a labor of love. I probably won’t get past the first episode if it has Hari Seldon as an action hero.


  2. It all depends on the screenwriting. Did you ever watch FlashForward? It was an amazing, action-packed, super-exciting series with heavy-duty philosophy of quantum mechanics thrown in. Intriguingly, the original book was completely dull with no action or interesting characters, just the dry philosophy.


        1. I’ve never read any of Robert J Sawyer’s stuff, although I’ve been meaning to. His books look interesting. But Flashforward probably wouldn’t be the one I’d pick up.

          I once read an article he wrote on writing that I didn’t care for. He looked at a sample passage by Gene Roddenberry, suggesting “improvements” that I personally found weakened the passage. He seemed a bit blind to the fact that there are different writing styles, and that not all readers prefer the style he does.


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