[books] The Unmaking of Earthsea

Ursula K. Le Guin isn't too thrilled with the Legend of Earthsea miniseries. I haven't read it (yet) nor seen any of it, so I can't comment on the differences. But I wonder... Once you sell the rights to your writing, how much say do you/can you have over how the film is made and/or what message the film is trying to convey? Can you have that written into the contract? I imagine you could call up the director and say, "No, no, it happened this way," and he could say, "Yes, yes, we'll make the changes" and then not do anything.

I wonder how many authors sell their stories with the highest hopes only to wish, later, that they'd not let go.

That reminds me, there was a question on the recent Guardian Adaptation quiz:

10. Upon seeing a film made from one of his books, what was John Le Carré's quoted reaction?

a) "It's like Christmas and your birthday all at once"
b) "It's like taking a cow and boiling it down to an Oxo cube"
c) "It's like looking into the toilet bowl and remembering the wonderful meal you had the night before"
d) "It's like losing a daughter only to have her return as a whore"

Maybe the answer could be "a" in a best-case scenario, but it's probably more like "d".


Yo, Ursula K. Le Guin is pissed off. Read her op/ed piece at Slate, affectionately titled A Whitewashed Earthsea. She doesn't like that fact that the producers mostly cast White Bread (with Danny Glover filling in as the token black man) when her book and characters display a wide array of races. She gets semi-hysterical about all the different skin colors in her story and how the movie ignored that. I thought she was over-reacting until I read-

"I have heard, not often, but very memorably, from readers of color who told me that the Earthsea books were the only books in the genre that they felt included in- and how much this meant to them, particularly as adolescents, when they'd found nothing to read in fantasy and science fiction except the adventures of white people in white worlds."

I never thought of that. For those of you who read sci-fi/fantasy, how often do you read about main characters who are non-white? And I'm not talking Chewbacca or R2D2 "non-white", I mean African American, Native American, Indian, etc? Ever pick up a sci-fi book and see an ethnic person on the cover? Probably not. I can understand now why the variety of races is a glaring omission on the part of the mini-series creators.

Le Guin also kind-of answers my question about what happens after you sell the rights to your book:

"When I sold the rights to Earthsea a few years ago, my contract gave me the standard status of 'consultant'- which means whatever the producers want it to mean, almost always little or nothing."


Anonymous said...

I would guess "c"


amy said...

It's "b", which isn't so bad. I still like "d" the best, though.