Friday, February 24, 2012

Bug Jack Barron

Alongside my interest in Ray Bradbury's screen career, I have been a longtime follower of other fantasists who practice(d) the art of screenwriting. These include Harlan Ellison, Norman Spinrad, Robert Bloch, Theodore Sturgeon, Richard Matheson, Charles Beaumont... to name just six.

One of Spinrad's best novels is Bug Jack Barron, a work whose style and politics place it firmly in the late 1960s, but whose depiction of media manipulation is remarkably prescient - in some ways paralleling what Bradbury achieved in Fahrenheit 451.

Bug Jack Barron first appeared in Britain's leading science fiction magazine New Worlds, at that time edited by Michael Moorcock. Moorcock has written an excellent article about Spinrad and the novel.

Spinrad was keen to see Bug Jack Barron turned into a film, and wrote a screenplay adaptation of his novel in 1970. This week, for the first time, he has published his screenplay: it is now available as an e-book in the Kindle format. At the time of writing, it is a FREE download. Click here for the US download/purchase page, or click here for the UK page.

(Don't have a Kindle? No problem. You can download a free Kindle read for the PC: details here.)

I once spoke very briefly to Norman about the film, and there was obvious frustration in his voice as he told me of how the film's rights were tied up at Universal Pictures. On his own blog, he has given a bit more detail of how things developed and how he hopes that publishing the screenplay just might help get the property out of Universal's grip.

In the 1980s, Harlan Ellison was at work on another adaptation of the novel, for award-winning director Costa-Gavras. I remember eagerly awaiting the production of this film, which Ellison had spoken of in a number of articles and interviews. Unfortunately, the film was never made.

After I posted about Bug Jack Barron on the Ellison message board (the Art Deco Dining Pavilion), Harlan dropped in to report that his screenplay - described as an original work suggested by Spinrad's novel - will soon be published, from Publishing 180. The Ellison screenplay is entitled None of the Above, and should make fascinating reading, as well as being an excellent companion to Ellison's Brain Movies series of books collecting his best screenplays and teleplays.


Smiler said...

One of my favourite books ever. I still have one of the original paperbacks (very dog eared now.)
I can't see it being made into a film though. It just shows to much how the money men rule the world with all the politicians dancing to their tune. Don't get me wrong - I would love to see it made into a movie.
Question - Who would be best to play the part of Mr Barron if a film was ever made?
All the best...

Phil said...

I think the book was very much of its time, and if stripped of the '60s context it would be a lesser work. However, I'm keen to see what Ellison made of it in his screenplay adaptation in the '80s.

Who would play Jack Barron? Back in the '80s I always thought it should be Jack Nicholson or possibly Warren Beatty. I can't think of a current star who would fit the version of Barron I have in my head.