Forward Momentum!

HBO has dramatized A Game of Thrones; Starz in the process of doing the same with Outlander; and I hear rumors of both a Farscape and an Honor Harrington feature film.

Since it seems we’ve evolved as a society to the point where we can produce good adaptations of sprawling SF stories with large casts of characters set in complex universes, clearly the time is ripe for a miniseries based on Lois McMaster Bujold’s many-time Hugo-award-winning Miles Vorkosigan series.

I’m frankly not sure why someone hasn’t already stepped up to do this. Is it because the series doesn’t have as catchy a name as the others? “The Vorkosiganverse” is a mouthful, to be sure. But then, the Horatio Hornblower series was just called “Hornblower,” and the parallel is…pretty much exact, actually, so that can’t be the problem.

Casting for Miles’, uh, unconventional physical form might have posed a challenge in an earlier era, but surely between Peter Jackson’s CGI hobbit solution and Peter Dinklage‘s rising fame, we can figure something out. (Can I pause to add that I would totally cast Dinklage as Mark without an instant’s hesitation? He looks too solid for Miles, but I’ll bet between CGI and makeup, something could be managed…)

You could tell the core of the story in a six-season series.

Below the cut are spoilers. You’ve been warned, and given I’m talking about books that have been out for between twelve and twenty-eight years, you only get to be so angry if I reveal something you wanted to find out for yourself.

(Wherein Heather betrays what she thinks the core story is.)

I’d start with Warrior’s Apprentice, not with Shards of Honor; though I like Cordelia’s story, the bulk of the series focuses on her son, and so should the miniseries. I’d drop The Vor Game–which I frankly dislike as a follow-up to Warrior; it’s so very sequelly. More importantly, if you look at publication dates, you’ll see it was written to fill in blanks after the fact. Bujold’s original story arc went straight from Warrior to Brothers In Arms, rocketing with irresistible forward momentum straight through what we all thought were the world’s rules of engagement. (“Oh, it’s a space opera series about a charismatic mercenary admiral. Oh, it’s…really not. It is so not that simple.”) The arc that goes Warrior’s Apprentice, Brothers In Arms, Mirror Dance, Memory is staggering–just breathtaking in its hurtling pace–I’ve mentioned I admire this woman to death, right?–and that’s the experience you’d want to give to the miniseries audience.

So the first season is Warrior’s Apprentice, but not confined to Miles’ POV; you’d add cuts to show what’s going on back home as well, to introduce the Barrayarran baseline. The only part of Vor Game you need for arc purposes is Gregor’s internal journey, which could become a part of Warrior with a little tailoring. You’d add an end scene so the season wraps up not with Miles in the shuttlecraft, but rather with Miles three years later sitting across from Illyan and receiving a commission to go run the Dendarri on behalf of the Empire.

Season two starts with “The Borders of Infinity” (the story, not the omnibus), and goes immediately into Brothers In Arms. Maybe “Borders” is intercut with some scenes of Ivan and Lady Donna, perhaps providing a reason why he was packed off to Earth.

I think there’s a good argument that season three should start with “Labyrinth.” It needs to go somewhere, since all of Mirror Dance depends on it, and I think here is the best place. Either restructure the timing so that it takes place chronologically after “Borders” and Brothers (though that makes Miles’ love life during that period even more dubious) or make it a flashback with a “Three years ago…” subtitle on the screen. (I’d accept an argument that it should go before “Borders” in season two, but I like the pacing of my structure better.) From “Labyrinth,” go immediately into Mirror Dance. The Barrayarran ball scenes in Mirror should explicitly show Lady Donna and the newly-betrothed Vorbrettans. Any “meanwhile on Barraryar” pieces of season one and two should have already established the Koudelkas as minor characters, since we don’t have Cordelia’s Honor to do that heavy lifting.

Season four is Memory, except it ends with an added scene of Miles’ Winterfair oath-taking to end on a triumphant note and make the viewer excited to see what happens next. Season five is Komarr. Season six is A Civil Campaign. The final episode of season six ends with an epilogue set two and a half years later, with the opening of Aral Alexander’s and Helen Natalia’s uterine replicators. We end with Miles in a chair with two babies in his lap, Count Aral quietly wiping his eyes, Cordelia hovering like a maternal vulture (one of the greatest lines ever written), and the implicit promise that everything’s okay now, because the hero has settled down and sired the next generation.

I’ve clearly given way too much thought to something I have not, you know, been hired to adapt (though I’d take the job in a hot second if it were offered, just for the record)–but this is a totally viable adaptive structure, amiright? It would be like watching I, Claudius.

Why isn’t somebody already doing this? Is there a petition I can sign?

If not, want to start one with me?


Comments (8)

CambiasMarch 3rd, 2014 at 7:18 pm

Ms. Bujold at one point mentioned seeing a feature film script based on Warrior’s Apprentice and possibly Vor Game, and it was a travesty. Miles is the (tall, good-looking) hero who battles the evil Barrayaran Emperor. Seriously.

I’m not sure Hollywood is ready for a series in which, among other things, feudal loyalty is a major theme, and the hero is essentially a Blackwater contractor working for the CIA in space.

KaraMarch 3rd, 2014 at 9:25 pm

I’d sign that petition!

HeatherMarch 4th, 2014 at 1:21 pm

Ms. Bujold at one point mentioned seeing a feature film script based on Warrior’s Apprentice and possibly Vor Game, and it was a travesty. Miles is the (tall, good-looking) hero who battles the evil Barrayaran Emperor. Seriously.


I’m not sure Hollywood is ready for a series in which, among other things, feudal loyalty is a major theme, and the hero is essentially a Blackwater contractor working for the CIA in space.

Hollywood should in that case get its head out of its…*cough*, take note of a) the fact that Hugos are fan-voted awards, suggesting a good-sized enthusiastic fan base, and b) the positive response to the non-travesty dramatization of Game of Thrones, a saga that similarly doesn’t fit neat Hollywood themes. Moral complexity FTW!

JohnMarch 5th, 2014 at 5:45 am

Oooh, I like this arrangement!

“Labyrinth” might make a good story for Miles to tell someone?

Possibly some of the other books would make good encore mini-series, if the actors were kept around…

I guess the main thing I’d miss from “The Vor Game” would be the negotiations between Miles and Gregor and Cavilo near the end. I absolutely adore them. (“Lord Vorkosigan’s mutations have driven him mad, everyone knows that!”) And while I very much enjoy *reading* “The Vor Game”, your logic is persuasive.

So if there were a way for the last episode of the first season to have the “three years later” section pick up in the middle of chapter 15, perhaps around where Ungari lifts Miles up by his lapels, that could provide enough exposition that the frenzied negotiations make sense. (It might be awesomer to pick up in the middle of chapter 13, where Oser rescues Miles’ bod pod and then Miles proceeds to retake the fleet, but that might be a bit too much to cram into a flash-forward, even an episode-long one…)

Anyway, that could also provide some very good Miles/Gregor interaction, set up Gregor’s frightening maturity, and demonstrate why the Cetagandans want to kill Miles. There’s no need for the space battle at the end, I’d think; it’d probably work to skip from the section containing “Commander Cavilo, both my parents died violently in political intrigue before I was six years old. A fact you might have researched. Did you think you were dealing with an /amateur/?” to the debriefing/commission that you mention.

But I expect I simply have an irrational fondness for those few chapters. 🙂

BeauMarch 5th, 2014 at 9:12 am

Start it, I’ll sign it.

Now, if Timepiece had a few more books…

HeatherMarch 5th, 2014 at 2:38 pm

Hi John!

Yeah, including Vor Game or not is the thing I am most on the fence about. I could be persuaded that it is necessary – perhaps more for “Did you think you were dealing with an amateur?” than any other reason. It would be much harder to craft a similar arc for Gregor out of the material in Warrior – I think it could be done, but it would take significant adaptation. And while “Borders of Infinity” gives the Cetas enough of a reason to off Admiral Naismith all by itself, added ammunition is good too. 🙂

Really, it’s more that Vor Game is too much like Warrior, and everything else relentlessly breaks the mold of what came before it. Seems to me it’s preferable to start relentless, head-spinning mold-breaking in season 2 rather than season 3. But I could be persuaded.

Were, you know, the project to be greenlit with me as part of a creative team. I can dream. 😉

HeatherMarch 5th, 2014 at 2:47 pm

Beau – *grin*. Thanks!

ElenaMarch 17th, 2014 at 3:48 pm

Hi! I came to congratulate you on the games you write for choice of games (they’re exceptional), and while I’m at it, I’d sign your petition. Even though you want to drop Shards of Honor and I can’t agree with that particular point.

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