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The NIGHTFLYER Flies Again

I spent some time in LA the week before Thanksgiving, as mentioned below in my "City of Angels" post. Meetings, meetings, and more meetings... along with some get-togethers with old friends.

There's a lot of cool things in the works, most of which I can't tell you about. (Yet).

I can say a few words about one of the highlights of the trip, however. I finally had the chance to sit down and break bread with the guys who are bringing NIGHTFLYERS to television for the SyFy channel: writer/ creator Jeff Buhler, who scripted the pilot (below, left), and showrunner Daniel Cerone, who will helm the series (below, right).

This was the first time I'd met (or spoken with) either Jeff or Daniel, but we had a great meeting, and I was impressed by their enthusiasm and their plans for the series. Cerone's extensive list of previous credits includes THE BLACKLIST, THE MENTALIST, and DEXTER. Buhler's previous writing credits include ELOISE, PET SEMATARY, and THE MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN. He's also been an actor and director. I read a draft of his pilot back in May, when I first heard of the NIGHTFLYERS television project. While it departs considerably from my novella in certain details, the essence of the story remains the same -- and I thought the teleplay was quite strong on its own terms, and a good launching point for a series.

The original version of "Nightflyers" was published in 1980 (when I looked more like the guy in the picture above), as a 23,000 word novella in ANALOG. Set in my 'Thousand Worlds' (aka 'manrealm') universe, it was one of the SF/ horror hybrids that I was writing in the late 70s and early 80s, the best known of which was my novelette "Sandkings" from the year before. "Sandkings" had won both the Hugo and Nebula awards, and "Nightflyers" was also well received, winning the LOCUS Award as best novella and a place on the Hugo ballot (losing the rocket to a Dorsai novella by Gordy Dickson). The novella also won the Seiun Award in Japan. (FWIW, the inspiration for both of those stories was a statement I read somewhere by a critic, to the effect that SF and horror was opposites, and fundamentally incompatible. As a lifelong fan of both, that assertion struck me as nonsense, so I set out to prove it wrong by blending the two genres together. Worked out pretty well for me).

A few years later, I expanded "Nightflyers" to 30,000 words for inclusion in a volume of Dell's BINARY STAR series, where it was paired with Vernon Vinge's "True Names." The longer version has been my preferred text ever since, and it was that version that was included in the Bluejay collection NIGHTFLYERS AND OTHER STORIES, and later in my RRetrospective DREAMSONGS. In 1984, screen and television rights to "Nightflyers" were purchased by Vista, and a low budget feature film was released in 1987, scripted by Robert Jaffe and starring Michael Praed and Catherine Mary Stewart.

Sometime in the last year or so, SyFy acquired the television rights via that old movie deal, unbeknownest to me; the first I'd heard of their development was last spring. Honestly, at first I was baffled as to how they hoped to get a series out of my story, since at the end of the novella (and the film) pretty much everyone is dead (it was a horror story, after all). But in May, UCP got me a copy of Jeff Buhler's script, and I saw how he'd dealt with that. It was a good read, and yes, I came away with a better idea of where they'd find a few seasons.

I was delighted to have the chance to sit down and talk with Jeff and Daniel, and learn more of their plans. NIGHTFLYERS was only a pilot script in May, but subsequently it has been picked up for a full ten-episode season order, with a substantial budget, one that should allow them to create a show that looks as good as modern audiences expect. They showed me drawings of some of the set designs, some very cool sets. They even showed me the NIGHTFLYER herself:

NIGHTFLYERS will be shot in the Republic of Ireland, I'm told, on sound stages in Limerick... which will give them access to the same great pool of Irish and British actors that GAME OF THRONES has tapped in Belfast (and considering how many characters we've killed, a lot of them should be available). ((If by some miracles I actually complete enough of my other projects to create some free time, I've love to go over there and kill two birds with one flight by visiting both the GOT and NIGHTFLYERS sets... but that remains a long shot, given my current word load)). If all goes according to schedule, the series should debut this summer, in late July. It will be broadcast on SyFy in the USA, and on Netflix around the world.

Presently Cerone and Buhler and their team are deep in the throes of pre-production and casting... and I have some news on the casting front as well, a casting that has pleased me more than I can possibly say, which I will save for another post.

((Comments allowed, but only on NIGHTFLYERS. Stay on topic)).


Nov. 28th, 2017 01:01 am (UTC)
Shae is coming back...to space!
Tim Bostick
Nov. 28th, 2017 01:57 pm (UTC)
GOT actors elsewhere
Haha. I still think of Frontier as "Khal Drogo in Canada."
Nov. 28th, 2017 01:08 am (UTC)
Excitement... rising
While I am disappointed at the, " While it departs considerably from my novella in certain details," that was actually something I expected. I couldn't see how they would get a series out of this story, as noted in the info above, most everyone was dead (or on death's wing) by the end of the story.

I absolutely love this GRRM story. My second favorite behind Meathouse Man, but only by a minuscule skosh. And the fact that the main theme to this story was carried over into a bigger story later was an incredibly satisfying read.

I am looking forward (still curiously) to watching this story.

Edited at 2017-11-28 01:09 am (UTC)
Nov. 28th, 2017 03:14 pm (UTC)
I have to go through Dreamsongs again.
It's been too long. I especially loved The Fortress and it's sic-fi companion Under Siege.

And Meathouse Man should be made into a movie. One that the whole family cannot enjoy!
Nov. 28th, 2017 01:41 am (UTC)
Congratulations. Sounds good. If it'll be on Netflix, I can see it easily, and I'm looking forward to it.

I agree with that critic insofar as SF and horror are fundamentally different things, but that does not mean a sufficiently clever author can't combine them, and you're far from the first clever author to have done so. It'd already been done, as far back as Lovecraft at the least, and the critic was out of date. But I wouldn't be without your further confirmations of the thesis.
Nov. 28th, 2017 01:58 am (UTC)

I'm Lisa from Chicago, and I'm looking to write my first fictional book. At one point, I thought I wanted to be a news reporter/ journalist, so I got the degree, but that desire has drastically changed.

Even though I no longer want to live my life in a newsroom, I still want to write. Would you have any advice to offer a newbie like myself?

Also, I offer my sincerest apologies for not stayingon topic. But, I'm starving for some good advice. Please forgive me.😣

Edited at 2017-11-28 02:03 am (UTC)
Nov. 28th, 2017 09:48 pm (UTC)
I have a FAQ on my website. Check that out for advice to new writers.
Alec Guerin
Nov. 29th, 2017 06:42 pm (UTC)
As long as we're off-topic, I just wanted to thank you for everything that you do. I really enjoy your work and appearances.
(no subject) - darthvladjad - Nov. 28th, 2017 04:51 am (UTC) - Expand
Nov. 28th, 2017 08:29 pm (UTC)
Re: Alien is a great movie
I'd actually be very curious to hear what the critic's argument was. And how they were defining Science Fiction. As it stands, the potential for a story to involves both speculative technology and things that scare the crap out of people seems so obvious that I have difficulty seeing the counter-argument.
Aileen Brennan
Nov. 28th, 2017 08:59 am (UTC)
Onward and Upward for the Irish Film Industry
I'm so happy to read they plan to film Nightflyers in Ireland! Our little film industry has grown considerably in the last few years, particularly due to GoT and Vikings, so another string to our bow will be welcome. Plus they won't be all that far from that rock Luke Skywalker has been hanging out on recently... :P
Pinar Iki
Nov. 28th, 2017 09:33 am (UTC)
Why in Ireland? and why with british / irish actors?
Nov. 28th, 2017 03:07 pm (UTC)
I could definitely see this as a first-rate series, say 8 episodes (6 might be even better narratively), but for a regular show yes, substantial alterations and departures from the original novella would have to be made. Makes one nervous. I suppose at least the volcryn (if I am remembering the name right) now have the opportunity to become more than just a Macguffin.
Nov. 28th, 2017 03:45 pm (UTC)
Haha, crikey, it worked out ok for Cthulu, and the xenomorph also,
didn't? What a bizarre assertion to make, from a pro critic was it? If ever there was proof that all opinions are not created equal....
Nov. 28th, 2017 03:58 pm (UTC)
The Nightflyer
Looking forward to the show, from what you've said. The concept art for the ship is lovely.
Nov. 29th, 2017 12:00 am (UTC)
This is good news, and its great to hear you're happy with the budget.
Can't have enough good sci fi out there. I'm gonna tell everybody.
Nov. 29th, 2017 12:36 am (UTC)
What I remember best from the novella is that crushing moment when it is explained what the Volcryn actually is. I hope there will be room for that in the series.
Williamjames Hoffer
Nov. 29th, 2017 01:58 am (UTC)
Combining Horror and Sci Fi
We should thank that critic then. Nightflyers is a fantastic read. I will still hold out for a Tuf Voyaging series...of movies. But, Nightflyers will have to do for now.
Nov. 29th, 2017 01:59 pm (UTC)
Expanding the industry
Great to know there's another show coming to our small island, and George you know you're always welcome when you have time. Do you have any idea what agency will be casting for extras? If indeed many will be needed. We can live in hope! Hope to get to the set, but just looking forward to seeing it too!
Nov. 29th, 2017 07:13 pm (UTC)
Can´t wait!!!
I am looking forward to watch the tv series! :)
Ann Seeber
Nov. 29th, 2017 07:26 pm (UTC)
(and considering how many characters we've killed, a lot of them should be available) ;)
Shawn Francis
Nov. 30th, 2017 02:29 am (UTC)
Deviating From The Story?!
I love that novella and am dismayed to hear it's deviating somewhat from it. I assume a lot of the horror has been downplayed? It gets quite gory in the final act. I had a feeling it would deviate, seeing as it's becoming a series and on SyFy. i think I would have preferred a big budget movie instead, but I'm certainly gonna check it out next summer.
Nov. 30th, 2017 07:54 pm (UTC)
Re: Deviating From The Story?!
No, horror is not being downplayed.

I understand the need to deviate. The novella cannot sustain a multi-season series; the characters are all killed one by one, and there is a definite ending.
Shawn Francis
Dec. 2nd, 2017 12:29 am (UTC)
Re: Deviating From The Story?!
Are they going full on gore with it? I remember there's a psychic head explosion, and a laser decapitation mostly conveyed through horrible screaming over the helmet coms which actually unnerved me when I read it, still does too, re-read the novella this past summer, and then that floating eyeball, and the telekinetically animated bodies. As long as all that is still in there, okay, I'm on board. NIGHTFLYERS I consider one of the best and well plotted scifi-horror tales I've ever read in my 48 years. I always thought a big budget remake would be super, but now I'm looking forward to seeing what they do with this series. Would love for someone to release the original '87 movie on disc. I actually liked that too.

Edited at 2017-12-02 12:37 am (UTC)
Dec. 2nd, 2017 09:13 pm (UTC)
Re: Deviating From The Story?!
"Full gore?" Well, I don't know... remains to be seen.

Some of the scenes you're remembering were from the story, others from the novella. No one version had all of them.

We recently screened the original version of THE HITCHER at the JCC. The most horrific scene in that movie has Jennifer Jason Leigh tied between two trucks and torn in half... but you do not see it on camera. You see the set-up, then hear the screams. The recent remake, I am told (I have not myself seen the film) shows the entire scene in "full gore." I am not sure that is necessary. The original version was certainly sickening enough. Do we really need spewing entrails? Hitchcock never shows a knife entering flesh in the classic PSYCHO shower scene. Yet it remains a terrifying sequence.

Sometimes the things we imagine are scarier than the things we see.
Dec. 1st, 2017 02:25 pm (UTC)
"...given my current word load."

That's either a great play on words or an even better typo.

I read the story in Dreamsongs and I picked up an old paperback of the novel a few weeks ago in a thrift shop. I will have to give it a re-read.
Dec. 1st, 2017 08:38 pm (UTC)
I assume the critic who claimed that sci-fi and horror could not be combined hadn't read much of both. But you recently wrote:

"Nightflyers... the movie... was not a huge hit. But it's a film that I have very warm feelings toward. Nightflyers may not have saved my life, but in a very real sense it saved my career, and everything I have written since exists in no small part because of that 1987 film."

I have always found the butterfly effect fascinating. So if the statement from the critic hadn't provoked you, we may not have had the other work that came from you later, with A Song of Ice and Fire (and the TV-show and its influence) as the most obvious example.

Anyway, the concept of the story; a limited number of people isolated on a spaceship in interstellar space, far from everyone and everything, is one of my favorite topics in sci-fi. (Also, since both Jeff and Daniel is involved in this, would it be possible to give Jeff Daniels a little guest role?)


George R.R. Martin
George R. R. Martin

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