In a world where some of the buzziest, sexiest, and edgiest shows – Game of Thrones, The Magicians, The Man in the High Castle, and Westworld – were adapted from books, it seems like a slam-dunk to nab another popular fantasy/sci-fi book series for development. As announced last fall, Universal Cable Productions is attempting it with Wild Cards, another George R.R. Martin-affiliated property. And now, according to Variety, producer Steven Paul’s SP Entertainment Group is doing just that with Piers Anthony’s extremely long-lived Xanth fantasy series – the 41st book of which is due to publish this month.
Yes, you read that correctly – the 41st installment. The name “Xanth” comes from Anthony’s own full name (Piers Anthony .. Pier[Xanth]ony … get it?), and is said to be an alternate version of Florida. The Xanth series kicked off in 1977 with “A Spell For Chameleon,” concerning a denizen of the magical world of Xanth known as Bink, who is notable in that he has no magic talents of his own. In Xanth, you see, everyone has a magical talent, and if you don’t manifest one by the age of 25, you get booted out of Xanth and forced to live in the dreary land of Mundania. As of yet, there has been no indication whether this will be a television or movie watcher’s first foray into Xanth should the adaptation make it that far.
What can we expect in general from such a movie or television show? Well, Xanth is largely comedic, and much of the humor comes from the massive density of puns found within the pages. One obvious example is the title of the 13th book in the series, “Isle of View.” (It’s a love story/adventure. Think about it). How this penchant for punnery might translate to the screen, we can’t even speculate, except to say that it’s likely to keep the light tone. Xanth tends to be rather silly – and creative in its silliness (“the Adult Conspiracy” is a thing – a rather complicated thing involving storks and children losing their monsters under the bed…). Xanth also is pretty heavy on the romance and sexuality (look no further than the title of the 15th book, “The Color of Her Panties).
The series definitely has its critics, and much of the relevant criticism can perhaps be summed up in this piece from the AV Club wherein the author reads “A Spell For Chameleon” with adult eyes for the first time, having last read it in his youth. Amid the silliness, he sees misogyny everywhere. He makes some cogent points. This, plus that much of the humor, as we mentioned, comes from written puns are what we see as the most obstacles to adapting Xanth.
However, we believe there are two primary factors that could mitigate these challenges when translated to another medium. First of all, it’s 2017, not 1977, and whoever is adapting the material has the benefit of applying modern sensibilities to that new version. Second, as we’ve seen with The Magicians, producers are increasingly adept at taking what works on the printed page and tweaking it so it will work better for the medium in question.
As ever, we’ll wait to judge until there’s something to judge. Either way, it’ll be interesting to see how far this gets in development and what the final product looks like.
Images: Tor Books