Word came several years ago that a film or mini-series based on Earth Abides was “in development.” “In development” means that producers (or others) were proposing to funders and distributors that a work should be filmed. A little research revealed that the production company doing the proposing was helmed by two academy-award-winning producers, so the prospect was promising.
After that, nothing. I’d check regularly, and post an update – which was always an update about silence. Until now.
A few weeks ago, a trusted source asked my advice about a possible contract for an Earth Abides mini series. He mentioned the series would be presented on a newly revamped and renamed streaming service premiering on January 15. And indeed, on January 15th MGM +, a premium service owned by Amazon, was announced. So had the series, films, and mini-series MGM+ is producing or has in development – including …. EARTH ABIDES
Since those involved in the effort – Producers Michael Phillips, Juliana Maio, and Kearie Peak, GRS family representative Ed, HarperCollins Representative Matt S. – are champions of the effort, and since it’s been publicly announced, it’s sure to be a fine work. (Between them the producers have four Academy Awards. Philips for The Sting, Taxi Driver, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind; Maio for a documentary about the Jewish community Cairo.) The series has already been scripted, which should reduce production time.
The mini-series, once produced will be available on the new MGM+. Judging by the fact that episodes of other MGM+ mini-series are already available on Prime Video, it’s likely that at least some episodes of Earth Abides will also be on Prime Video.
Will the mini-series be an accurate film version of EA?
Here’s a cautionary tale found in three letters to GRS in the George Rippey Stewart Papers (at the Bancroft Library. The letters were from Stewart’s old school chum Buddy DeSylva. DeSylva had gone on to some fame as a composer, discoverer of Shirley Temple, co-founder of Capitol Records, and producer. (There’s even a musical about DeSylva.) DeSilva’s first letter, happy and enthusiastic, informed Stewart that Paramount wanted to film FIRE. The second letter, a few months later warned Stewart Paramount had made a few changes to the novel. The third letter was downright apologetic; Stewart would not recognize his novel at all in the film. (The movie, Red Skies Of Montana, completely omitted the focus on fire ecology which is the central theme of FIRE.) Stewart didn’t seem upset. He knew the novel had a wide audience, and would stand on its own. As it has – his novel is still honored and read; the movie, largely forgotten.
In the same way – No matter how this series turns out EARTH ABIDES will endure. A mini-series, even if it changes the novel in important ways, will introduce the book to millions of new readers. Younger readers. Many of those readers will probably turn to Stewart’s other novels; and they will carry the books and their profound beauty and encouragement forward, into the unknown time ahead. Then the work of all of us who’ve carried the torch of enlightenment found in the works of George R. Stewart forward to the generations yet to come will have done our work. So we can rest, perhaps with a Stewartian Old Fashioned in hand, listening to appropriate music – like distinguished composer Philip Aaberg’s Earth Abides – and consider our work well done.
As George R. Stewart wrote, at the end of his last ecological novel: