The Weird on Television: 6 Weird Books That Should Be TV Shows

Weird fiction isn’t something that occurs exclusively on the fringes of the literary world. Consider Neil Gaiman’s Hugo and Nebula award-winning novel American Gods, which, as we all know, was adapted into a television series on the Stars network. There’s no denying the literary weirdness of American Gods, even if Gaiman isn’t quite as strange as the work many of his lesser-known, oddball colleagues such as Thomas Ligotti. China Mieville’s The City and The City also appeared as a television serial for BBC in April, 2018. Although I haven’t read the novel or watched the series, my sources tell me it’s a well-know weird classic (and that it isn’t very good, although I’d prefer to confirm this myself). As everyday life in the 21st century feels increasingly like weird fiction, its no wonder that mainstream audiences find themselves adaptable to entertainment firmly beyond the pale.

Although I prefer books to television, I’m entirely in favor of the weirdification of popular entertainment. That’s why I’ve compiled a list of 6 works of weird fiction that ought to be adapted to television. While television is well outside of my expertise, I’ve watched more than my share of it like any good American. I’ve included short attempts to rationalize my choices below. What would you add to or omit from this list? Let me know in the comments below!

Dhalgren by Samuel Delaney

Of course, why not begin with a sci-fi masterpiece? This novel is dark, strange, and meandering enough to make it a perfect fit for television. Delaney’s writing is also beautiful, and while a transfer to the screen inevitably entails a certain loss when it comes to language, no prose is better suited to a representation by strong imagery than the prose you’ll find in Dhalgren. Rich, melodious, and eerie, Delaney’s writing strives heroically to be visual. Why not add an explicitly visual dimension, then, to this unsettling dystopian nightmare? Delaney’s haunting novel is packed with a wide cast of colorful characters, a jumble of intertwined subplots, and a compelling aura of mystery surrounding the protagonist, making it an ideal candidate for adaptation to television.

2666 by Roberto Bolano

While we’re on the subject of huge, meandering novels, why not include Roberto Bolano’s critically-acclaimed 2666? While you’re likely to find this title in any mainstream bookstore, it’s certainly as weird as they come. What screams “television” more than the hunt for an elusive serial killer centered on a “heart of darkness” narrative located in a small Mexican town? The answer might be “a lot of things,” but as a devoted fan of the first season of HBO’s True Detectives, I see a ton of similar potential here. Again, we are faced with a daunting cast of characters, perspectives, and loosely connected plots; while this may seem discouraging from a production standpoint, I see an opportunity for the enterprise to spill over into multiple seasons. A looming, dark, Latin American counterpart of True Detectives? Count me in!

Songs of a Dead Dreamer and Grimscribe by Thomas Ligotti

“Come on, man. You must be kidding.” I know, I know; I can practically feel your protest, but just hear me out. While Ligotti’s short fiction seems hardly suitable for TV, imagine a resurrection of Twilight Zone based on these macabre little mind benders. True, Ligotti employs some literary mechanisms, like epistolary narratives, which would be hardly translatable to the screen, but imagine the kind of imagery the right director could glean from these stories! Think a black and white noir series mixed with slick CGI for scenes like the one in which the cosmic void opens in a dream within a dream before the psychoanalyst’s patient in “Dream of a Manikin.” I’d sure as hell watch it.

Gateways to Abomination by Matthew Bartlett

Speaking of choices that make no sense at first flush, let’s consider Gateways to Abomination. As a series of disconnected short stories and vignettes based around the town of Leeds and the occult WXXM radio station (apparently only available to listeners who stumble across it by accident), Matthew Bartlett’s stunning book may seem like a producer’s worst nightmare. To glean a unified story rather than a series of independent episodes a la Twilight Zone or Black Mirror, some rewriting might be necessary. Even so, the story of someone unsuspectedly stumbling across Leeds and into the kaleidoscopic nightmare world of Bartlett’s disturbing and vivid fiction is destined to be better TV than American Horror Story.

Mongrels by Stephen Graham Jones

As the teen werewolf and vampire craze, as represented by shows like The Originals and The Vampire Diaries, eventually dies, choking in the steaming viscera of insipid writing and overplayed tropes stolen from Anne Rice, someone needs to come sweeping in with a strong series that washes the sour aftertaste away. Stephen Graham Jones set out to do exactly that with Mongrels, and he should be duly honored by carrying his purgation boldly into the realm of television. Mongrels is a coming-of-age novel based on a family of werewolves sans the overwhelming cliché of trendy teens driving unrealistically nice cars. In short, Mongrels isn’t pretty, but it’s compelling enough to serve as an antidote to the whitewashed world of TV “horror” aimed at audiences more concerned with high school romance than the darker aspects of life.

Celebrity Terrorist Sex Bomb by Bob Freville

What is more TV-friendly than celebrity, sex, and terrorism? What about an unholy mashup of the three? I’ve told Bob before he needs to write a script for this, and I hope one day he does. If someone made it into a television series, that would be awesome as well. Celebrity Terrorist Sex Bomb is a weird and wonderful ménage a trois of violence, extremism, and biting cultural satire just waiting for a witty personality to bring it to life for the screen. Hilarious, irreverent, and exorbitantly colorful, there’s no doubt that this little book holds plenty of potential for an engaging series based on a female protagonist abducted and indoctrinated by Islamic terrorists only to be deployed as a WMD against the shallow culture of America’s rich and famous.

What do you think? What would you add? Am I way off base here? Do any directors or actors come to mind for the above adaptations? Let us know in the comments below!

-Justin A. Burnett

Cinereous Incarnate Album Review

Band: Abstracter
Album: Cinereous Incarnate
Country of Origin: United States
Release Date: June 8th, 2018
Genre: Blackened doom
Label: I, Voidhanger

I seriously can’t put this one down. The third release from Oakland’s blackened doom masters is one of those albums good enough to bleed from the review pile to my regular rotation. I’ve listened to a Cinereous Imcarnate a dozen times, and I’m still not finished.

Listening to Cinereous Incarnate is like discovering Neurosis all over again. I was a latecomer; I got hooked on Given to the Rising and never quite recovered. No other Neurosis release managed to move me the way Given did. Cinereous Incarnate, however, seamlessly picks up the loose ends of my lukewarm relationship to Neurosis. I know what you’re saying; I hear those resounding accusations of blasphemy before they even exist. Allow a disclaimer: I’ve only heard a handful of Neurosis albums, so I’m open to the possibility that one of them delves into the dark, post-metal chasm with as much brilliant subtlety as Given to the Rising did. But until I find that album, Cinereous Incarnate will more than suffice.

Abstracter has those strange, counterintuitive chord progressions that made Given to the Rising so goddamned awesome fully at their command. Better yet, Cinereous Incarnate runs the whole doom thing through a thick black metal filter, adding a brilliant layer of soul-freezing darkness to the already suffocating mix. While it may seem like I’m describing yet another Sunn O))) album, I’m not. There’s something… more, something less obscure in Abstracter that pays off on the first listen without giving the game away. As I’ve already mentioned, I’m still enjoying every moment of this beast.

This is an album you want to immerse yourself in; its an album to play while writing a twisted dystopian novel. It’s an album to calm you in your deepest depression, to remind you of the uselessness of everything. It’s an album you want to hear while you die. In Cinereous Incarnate, Abstracter achieves what Mournful Congregation wants to without being self-conscious about it. This is a true must-have for those of you who thrive in the dark.

Rating: 5/5

An Announcement Regarding SMM Ethics

In light of recent events involving an author mentioned in one of our interviews (the name and link to the author have been redacted from the post), we would like to make it perfectly clear to our readers that neither I, nor anyone at Silent Motorist Media, endorses, tolerates, or in any way supports anyone who advocates rape, violence, or the overarching narrative of “male mistreatment” at the hands of women who have found the courage to stand up to their oppressors. We find this absolutely revolting, and it will be made explicitly clear that the individual involved is not welcome on SMM in any capacity whatsoever. I am a proud father of a daughter; that she has to share this world with people like this makes me sick.

-Justin A. Burnett

Illinois, by India LaPlace

Illinois

by India LaPlace

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We drove through Illinois once.
Actually, we were driving home to Utah,
From Huntsville, Alabama.
You were leaving me.
Not leaving me, really.
That wasn’t fair.
You were being deployed to South Korea.
I had to wait it out until the army said that I could come too.
I told everybody how sad I was,
How much I would miss you.
My heart was aching,
It had never felt so heavy
And I wanted to tear it out of my chest.
But it was aching because I knew I wasn’t in love
And I didn’t know how to leave.

This was real.
Legal.
And I had made a mistake when I signed those papers.

I was nearly four in the morning when we finally stopped.
The hotel was shitty,
But we were exhausted.
You always talked about how you could drive for hours on a road trip without getting tired.
You were a liar.
You are a liar, still.
I think about all of this while I change the baby
And wrap her up tightly.
She’s asleep before she can complain.
She’s perfect and I don’t deserve her.

You drove for a couple of hours,
While I drove for nearly eight.
It’s symbolic to me of how much I think
I’ve sacrificed
Compared to you.
Which is also not fair.
But it’s like all those times you asked me to rub your back
And I push myself til my fingers are cramped and aching.
But when it’s my turn,
I get a minute, if I’m lucky,
Before you roll over in bed.
You don’t even say a word to me.
You just decide you’re done and roll over.
I wish I could be done that easily,
But when it’s reversed, you whine,
Coax,
And I relent.

You won’t even play with my hair anymore.

When you come to the room,
Pulling a crib from the hotel behind you,
I clutch her closer to me.
This way I don’t have to hug you
And you can’t hug me either.
Not without waking the baby.
When you lean over to kiss me,
I move so you can only kiss my forehead.
I shush you,
Even though you haven’t said anything yet.
I tell you to go to bed.
I offer to make the crib comfortable for her.
I take my time, waiting until I am sure that you’re asleep.
Then I slip my body that I barely recognize
Out of my clothes and between strange sheets.
You turned on the heater
Even though I feel like you should know
That I can’t sleep if the room is too hot.

The sun starts to rise and you roll over to face me.
“Baby,” you whisper, because you never say my name,
“Let’s make love while the sun rises.”
My skin crawls.
There are several silent minutes
And I know I can pretend to be asleep.
But I won’t.
“Don’t ever fucking say the words ‘make love’ to me again,”
My whisper comes out like a hiss.
You don’t respond.
You roll back over.
But I saw your heart break a little in your eyes
And I wonder why I am like this.

Read India’s interview with SMM.

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India LaPlace is:
Writer. Feminist. Sunshine person. Associate Editor at Horror Sleaze Trash. Former mermaid, current Fleetwood Mac enthusiast, aspiring Queen of the Underworld. All about that grit, grace, and ganja in the SL,UT. Mother of a child who has far more patience for my subpar parenting skills than I have for most things. Generally pleasant, naturally cynical. Easily won over by a good book and a twisted sense of humor. I’m kind of like if a dive bar and a dumpster fire had a human baby.

You can find me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, and Goodreads. As Millennial garbage, I’ve really got that social media shit down.

SMM on Patreon!

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