That Amazon has had a TV adaptation of The Wheel of Time in the works has been the worst kept secret in SF over the past several weeks. The showrunner, Rafe Judkins, has been working on scripts and teasing various bits about the show via his Twitter account. Just last week he tweeted that he had just hired an assistant. Speculation was rife that the series had been “amberlit”–i.e., approved to move forward but with the official announcement delayed. Amazon has been gobbling up the rights to a lot of SF, but it looks like they will be focusing on their Lord of the Rings adaptation and their The Wheel of Time adaptation with this announcement and recent indications that they passed on a Conan adaptation (given that the Conan show was supposed to directly adapt Robert E. Howard’s original stories and given that the LotR show is going to adapt about half a page from the appendices, I was more excited about the former).
It is hard for me to express in words how excited about this I am. I have been reading The Wheel of Time since right around when The Shadow Rising hit book stores, so I have been a fan of the series for roughly 28 years. In my Tolkien 101 announcement, I talked about how Tolkien is responsible for my becoming a fantasy fan in the first place. Robert Jordan is responsible for my staying a fantasy fan. When I got to college I mostly lost interest in reading and in fantasy in particular. But there was still one series that kept me reading as each new book came out. That series was The Wheel of Time. And it was the completion of the series that got me back into reading fantasy in a big way.
Is the series going to be any good? Who knows! Even with all of the necessary conditions, nothing is sufficient to make an adaptation a sure thing. There are a lot of things that can go wrong. I have talked about the challenges of adapting The Wheel of Time here and here. And I have some specific concerns that I hope to address at length in the near future. And I don’t trust any adaptation these days.
I’m not that concerned, though, because I don’t have anything at risk. If it sucks, the books will still be awesome, and I will still have plenty of other television to watch. On the other hand, we could really use another marque fantasy show besides Game of Thrones, especially one that shows that you can make a great fantasy show that isn’t grimdark (the critics will never agree, but they don’t need to).
Most importantly, an adaptation, even a mediocre one, will be a boon for the books. The Wheel of Time is badly underrated despite having sold tens of millions of copies. Part of the reason is the lack of an adaptation. The only reason A Song of Ice and Fire passed The Wheel of Time in overall book sales is because of the Game of Thrones show. Conan would hardly be remembered today but for comics and pastiches and three movies. You might think all of those are mediocre (I would disagree as to one of the movies and maybe a few of the pastiches, although nothing compares to REH’s own stories), but they kept Conan alive in the eyes of the public. The Wheel of Time deserves the same.