So it goes – Kurt Vonnegut’s dark anti-war/sci-fi satire Slaughterhouse-Five is being adapted for TV

3 min read

As someone who buys a fair amount of books online I’m regularly given recommendations based on what I’ve previously purchased when idly browsing for something new, and the late Kurt Vonnegut’s novels have often been among those recommendations. Finally earlier this year I got around to reading his most famous work, Slaughterhouse-Five, and now it’s being adapted for television. I’m not saying these things are related. I’m not.

Slaughterhouse-Five, or to give it its full name – Slaughterhouse-Five, or The Children’s Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death – was first published in 1969 and is a darkly satirical sci-fi tale with strong anti-war, both hot and Cold, sentiments. It’s also regarded as semi-autobiographical as Vonnegut (who passed away in 2007), like the protagonist Billy Pilgrim, was captured by the Germans during the Battle of the Bulge in WWII and imprisoned in a slaughterhouse in the city of Dresden, where he was one of the few survivors of the Allied forces firebombing of the city.

That’s, presumably, where the similarities end however. During his capture Pilgrim becomes in his own words “unstuck in time” and from his point of view experiences time in the way the novel is written – non-linearly – as he narrates the events of his life. This includes his recovery in hospital after being rescued, his career and family life after the war, being kidnapped by aliens from the planet Tralfamadore and forced to live in an alien zoo where he’s paired with a gorgeous movie star and with whom he has another child, and his later life in New York City where his best friend is a Soviet spy.

The novel is probably best known for the fatalistic expression uttered every time something bad happens in Pilgrim’s life, “so it goes”. It was previously adapted for the big screen in 1972, and is regularly attempted to be banned from schools in the US.

Now (as per Variety) Universal Cable Productions (UCP – and not to be confused with RoboCop’s OCP), a subsidiary of NBCUniversal who’ve predominantly worked on series aired through SyFy and USA, have snapped up the rights to the novel. They’ve also tapped Patrick Macmanus (Marco Polo and the soon-to-air Happy!) to adapt the novel for the small screen.

While the novel is fairly short and focuses exclusively on Pilgrim, Macmanus will look to expand the novel into the world Vonnegut created, saying:

“There are no lines that Vonnegut ever throws away. But there are certain lines within the book that allude to a much larger world. I’m not just talking about going off into outer space. He alludes to the Balkanization of the United States and to the hydrogen bombing of the United States. I feel like today’s TV is the only way to tell this story. Even though it’s only approximately 275 pages, I think that it’s ripe to be expanded upon exponentially.”

UCP’s Senior VP of Development Elise Henderson said they’d been keeping an eye on the rights to the novel for a while as it was “a favorite book for many of us” and that they jumped at the chance when it became available:

“As soon as they did, we jumped in. At that point, we needed a writer, and we had just been introduced to Patrick for ‘Happy!’ Having read his material, we knew that he has the ability to do the emotional character depth that we need but also the ability to figure out a complex story and how to crack it, and capture the humor and the tone.”

I’m very curious to see what comes from this. I really enjoyed the novel, and a satirical TV series based in its broader world could be very entertaining indeed.

Last Updated: December 7, 2017

  • This is a good time to be alive for science fiction. First news of Altered Carbon and now this!? So good!

  • I wish they would do this with some fantasy novels. Not the way they kiddified Shannarah, which was a damn shame.

    • Original Heretic

      And in the second season they’re deviating from the books completely. Which just spells disaster, a la Legend of the Seeker, a series I wish I could scrub my mind clean of.
      I want the eternal sunshine of an un-LegendoftheSeeker Mind.

      • That is EXACTLY what I was hinting at. Other than the hot Cara, it was an abomination!

        • Original Heretic

          I liked to think that Seeker had taught studios a lesson of deviating, and how it was a huge mistake.
          And then Shannara just showed us that they didn’t learn a thing.

          I’ve actually just read up on some other books that they’re looking at adapting for screen.
          Some big names in there, stuff that’s been greenlit, but have yet to have anything more done.
          Wheel of Time.
          Memory, Sorrow and Thorn.
          Old Man’s War

          Now here’s hoping they don’t screw them up….

          • They probably will. I mean wtf is up with elves with goaties? Don’t get me wrong, the production value on Shannara is great, but the casting, and Allanon? 0_O

          • Original Heretic

            Yeah, Elves with facial hair is weird.
            But in their defense, Brooks’ portrayal of elves in the books was always a bit different. Their lifespan was the same as humans. And I think a few of them did have beards. It always irked me a bit.

            Manu Bennet as Allanon, never like it.
            From the moment of his awakening in the first episode, I hated it, also because his Druid sleep was IN THE WRONG PLACE!! He was supposed to be close to the lake of the dead, not some random cave….

          • Yeah they changed so much I wonder why they even used the name. Also, Will just looked like some brat. Allanon was not a hard bastard either, although Bennet did his best with, to me, was actually average scripting

          • Original Heretic

            Let’s be honest, it was also a rather average novel. The first one is a TOTAL rip off of LOTR.
            I liked the books when I initially read them in high school, but now, ugh, I find them quite contrite in many places.
            I used to somewhat enjoy the Knight and the Word series, until he hamfisted into the Shannara world.

          • ya I stopped a while ago. Also thought it was way too similar to LOTR, though I will give Brooks that he is a better story teller than Tolkin ever was. Come at me internet!

          • Alien Emperor Trevor
          • Don’t viennafy me!

          • Alien Emperor Trevor

            I thought we were being frank with one another!

          • You’re barking up the wrong tree here sir! Um…

          • Hammersteyn

            Gender fluid individual…

          • Original Heretic
          • Hammersteyn

            Saw new dance in Destiny 2, the time warp.

          • Original Heretic

            Was it astounding? Did time suddenly feel..fleeting?
            Let the madness take its toll.
            But listen closely….

          • Hammersteyn

            At first, but then I realized it’s more lootbox kak hidden behind a paywall……. gaah FU Activision.

          • Hammersteyn

            You’re the wurst sometimes.

          • Alien Emperor Trevor

            Says the russian agent.

          • Hammersteyn

            I’m from Vienna thank you.

          • Alien Emperor Trevor

            Red Vienna yeah!

          • Original Heretic

            No arguments from me….
            Tolkien just had a greater imagination.
            Brooks is derivative.

    • Alien Emperor Trevor

      If Netflix can do Witcher right… ERMAGAWD!!!11!!

    • Hammersteyn

      Like Dark Tower?

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