Syfy’s new leaf has been turned over, for good or ill. Over the past year or so, Syfy has been touting the goal of becoming the go-to destination for smart sci-fi TV, and they’ve accompanied that change in direction with an ambitious development slate of projects like The Expanse and 12 Monkeys. Well, now we can add another entry to Syfy’s campaign to win fans’ hearts and minds: they’re turning Robert Charles Wilson’s Hugo-winning novel Spin into a six-hour miniseries.
Released in 2005, Wilson’s Spin kicked off a trilogy that continued in 2007’s Axis and 2011’s Vortex. So assuming Syfy’s Spin miniseries goes over well, there will be fodder for at least two follow-ups, should the network want them. This is early days, but they’re definitely starting out on solid footing, having hired screenwriter Jim Uhls (Fight Club) to adapt the book. Granted, Uhls also wrote Jumper, but I’m going to choose to remain optimistic here.
If you’re not familiar with Spin, here’s a synopsis:
Spin is Robert Charles Wilson’s Hugo Award-winning masterpiece — a stunning combination of a galactic ‘what if’ and a small-scale, very human story. One night in October when he was ten years old, Tyler Dupree stood in his back yard and watched the stars go out. They all flared into brilliance at once, then disappeared, replaced by a flat, empty black barrier. He and his best friends, Jason and Diane Lawton, had seen what became known as the Big Blackout. It would shape their lives.
The effect is worldwide. The sun is now a featureless disk — a heat source, rather than an astronomical object. The moon is gone, but tides remain. Not only have the world’s artificial satellites fallen out of orbit, their recovered remains are pitted and aged, as though they’d been in space far longer than their known lifespans. As Tyler, Jason, and Diane grow up, a space probe reveals a bizarre truth: The barrier is artificial, generated by huge alien artifacts. Time is passing faster outside the barrier than inside — more than a hundred million years per year on Earth. At this rate, the death throes of the sun are only about forty years in our future.
Jason, now a promising young scientist, devotes his life to working against this slow-moving apocalypse. Diane throws herself into hedonism, marrying a sinister cult leader who’s forged a new religion out of the fears of the masses. Earth sends terraforming machines to Mars to let the onrush of time do its work, turning the planet green. Next they send humans…and immediately get back an emissary with thousands of years of stories to tell about the settling of Mars. Then Earth’s probes reveal that an identical barrier has appeared around Mars. Jason, desperate, seeds near space with self-replicating machines that will scatter copies of themselves outward from the sun — and report back on what they find. Life on Earth is about to get much, much stranger.
I haven’t read Spin or its sequels, but the premise is definitely intriguing. It also seems like the sort of project that Syfy can make within their budgetary restraints. While the story stretches beyond our home world, it sounds like much of the action will remain Earthbound. So far the “new wave” of Syfy programming has given us Ascension (a mixed bag) and 12 Monkeys (a surprisingly solid pilot). Hopefully the upward trend will continue with Spin and all the rest.
Syfy’s Spin is part of a TV sci-fi renaissance that’s unfolding right now, especially when it comes to adapting existing science fiction books. In addition to Syfy’s Childhood’s End, The Expanse, Ghost Brigades, and 3001, HBO has partnered with Jonathan Nolan to adapt Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series, Amazon just produced a pilot based on Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle, and Entertainment One Television is producing an adaptation of Frederik Pohl’s Gateway books. Sure, the odds of all of them being excellent is low, but man, what a great time to be a SF fan.