Calling James Cameron. February 11, 2011Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
Tags: Avatar, James Cameron, Joan D. Vinge, The Snow Queen, The Summer Queen
Do you have a favorite novel that you wish somebody would make into a movie? Our friend Ben would like to propose Joan D. Vinge’s sci-fi masterpiece, The Snow Queen. It has a rich back-story, a multilayered plot, some great characters, and, as far as I’m concerned, only two false notes.
Fortunately or unfortunately, neither false note is Ms. Vinge’s fault, though I didn’t realize that until this year, when I reread the story in a new edition that included an interview with Ms. Vinge at the end. (I had to buy a replacement for my original copy, which had literally disintegrated from multiple readings.) The interviewer asked Ms. Vinge how she came to base her Hugo Award-winning science-fiction masterpiece on Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale, “The Snow Queen.”
Oh. I hadn’t realized that the novel was based on anything other than Ms. Vinge’s fertile imagination. Rushing to Wikipedia, I read the plot of Andersen’s fairy tale and discovered the reason why Ms. Vinge had included what appeared to me to be a totally unnecessary and pointlessly distracting sequence in which the heroine is abducted by a band of robbers: It was an element in the original fairy tale. Andersen’s plot also revolved around the sweet little boy being corrupted and redeemed by his childhood sweetheart, which explains the rather cardboard character of the hero and why the heroine remains obsessed by him throughout the novel.
These quibbles aside, however, the novel is an entry port into an unparalled feat of imagination, the truest inheritor of J.R.R. Tolkien’s rich legacy coupled with Sheri Tepper’s environmental focus. Find it, read it; you won’t be sorry. You may not come away loving the heroine, but I guarantee you’ll love the Snow Queen, her henchman/lover Starbuck, and the head of police on her world, Jerusha PalaThion. (I’ve always wondered if that horrible coffee chain, Starbuck’s, took its name from the novel.) You’ll also doubtless not wish you were living on the water-world planet of Tiamat where most of the action takes place, but you’ll enjoy the interplay of cultures and technology that take place there, and on the other planets in the Hegemony, a latter-day remnant of the glories of the Old Empire.
I’ve wondered since I first read the novel and its sequel, The Summer Queen, why people weren’t falling all over themselves to make a movie cycle out of them. I finally concluded that moviemaking technology simply couldn’t do justice to the complex worlds Joan Vinge had created.
All that changed with the appearance of “Avatar.” I’m convinced that James Cameron, who brought the world of Pandora and its inhabitants to life, could do the same for Tiamat. So, Mr. Cameron, please: Read The Snow Queen and The Summer Queen. See if you don’t see movies taking shape in your mind. And make them for us, please. I’ve been waiting half a lifetime already.