It doesn’t happen often, but Hollywood can sometimes surprise sci-fi fans by hitting up works from authors who have rarely, if ever, had their work get adapted for the big screen. This time around it’s the prolific Robert Silverberg, an icon whose career goes back 60 years and encompasses over 60 novels, among other publications. Focus Features has snatched up the rights to Silverberg’s novella “How It Was When the Past Went Away,” and they’re teaming up with Temple Hill Entertainment’s Wyck Godfrey and Marty Bowen, the producers who turned Twilight into a jabrillion-dollar franchise. Let’s hope this feature comes with 100% less of a glitter budget.
The adapted screenplay will be written by Alex and David Pastor, the Spanish brothers who penned 2009’s slow-burning post-virus thriller Carriers with Chris Pine. They also wrote Tarsem’s upcoming sci-fi thriller Selfless which stars Ryan Reynolds, and Lluis Quilez’s thriller Out of the Dark, starring Julia Stiles. The brothers developed the story with Temple Hill’s Isaac Klausner, and the film will have Game of Thrones‘ Vince Gerardis executive producing. Temple Hill is also putting out Josh Boone’s adaptation of John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars and Stephen King’s Lisey’s Story, so I guess we can credit them for reminding people that books exist.
Silverberg’s story was set in San Francisco and followed several of its citizens after a criminal dumps a drug into the water system that destroys people’s memories — not all with the same severity. Beyond the unique ways that memory loss presents itself to the characters, the story also sees the formation of a memory loss cult with a leader who preys upon those who want their memories gone, and who uses a chemical to do just that. It’ll be an interesting tale to see turned into a feature, but you already know they’re going to change “How It Was When the Past Went Away” into something more palatable like Forgotten or It’s All a Memory.
The novella was originally published in the anthology Three for Tomorrow, as compiled by Arthur C. Clarke, who gave Silverberg and fellow authors Roger Zelazny and James Blish this theme: “With increasing technology goes increasing vulnerability: the more man conquers Nature, the more prone he becomes to artificial catastrophe.” It has since gone on to appear in other collections of Silverberg’s work, as well as other anthologies.
Silverberg has the distinction of being both a Grand Master of Science Fiction and a Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Famer, and he’s won numerous awards over the years. Check out the video below, taken during the World Con panel “The Secret History of Science Fiction,” which features in-depth stories and anecdotes about sci-fi’s yesteryears from Silverberg, George R.R. Martin, Mike Resnick, Joe Haldeman, and Gardner Dozois.