So, how many of you have read Vernor Vinge's AFUtD (spoilers follow)? I think it's a ridiculously amazing book, and it packs a number of concepts in, and I'm wondering if it could ever make it to the screen with most or all of them intact. You've got neat aliens (the sessile trees are just the tip of the iceberg), a space/time continuum that leaves Earth in the dumps, but reaches towards the singularity. And oh, newsgroups. So much newsgroup.

So let's look at things. I'm leaving a crapton out, so also look in wikipedia, and this is a decent summary.

Continuum:

Consider the Milky Way as concentric circles—the centre , most of it by disk plane area, being "Unthinking Depths" where intelligence, never mind FTL and AI are impossible and technology does not exist, the middle ring is "The Slow Zone", smallest in both cross sections, where FTL and AI still are no go, and "The Beyond" which is a narrow ring on the disk plane, but biggest on the edge on view. Here you can go FTL and get AI up to the level of human consciousness. And then, outside it all... "The Transcend": Things, light, technology, are fastest here, and all beings have achieved singularity (you advance, you move out to the suburbs).

One can travel into slower zones, but getting out is a matter of leapfrogging, getting faster technology at every leap to hurl yourself further out from the Unthinking Depths. Since the edges are unstable, edge travellers run the risk of finding themselves a zone down, and it will be problematic getting back up. Don't know if you can get back out of the Unthinking Depths.

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Humans are pretty much in the Slow Zone (that's where Earth is) and one genetic line in The Beyond.

Species:

I'm just going to point out my favourites:

The Blight: They're like a computer virus of singularity intelligence, and fight for their right to party.

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The Tines: multi body consciousness comprised of small packs of doglike animals that "think" between them with sound waves. A soul lives as long as any member of a pack is still alive. They're at medieval levels of intelligence in the Beyond

Riders: Intelligent Beyond trees in wheeled carriages with memory modules made by the Blight. Yeah, that does seem like it's ripe for problems, huh?

Humans: Most of the humans in The Beyond are descended from a Norwegian line. Pham is a constructed human from The Slow Zone with concomitant memories, and so is a stranger in a fucking strange land. He is, along with Rayna, part of a rescue team. Other humans are in a crash

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Newsgroups

Vinge makes extensive use of tone perfect internet newsgroups to communicate higher intelligences' opinion of everything that's going down. It's the least sci fi thing in the book, but makes such delightful sense in context. I'm just grateful the book was written before twitter.

Plot?

Yeah! There is room for one! A baby AI power is trying to kill the humans in The Beyond that have noticed its potential threat level, and the story is the struggle involving a team comprised of a scientist from The Beyond and a man from the Slow Zone, a family who'd escaped the baby AI and landed on the dogpack planet, and Blight funtimes.

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Pretty much. Please correct as you see fit, or ask if you don't see.

Treatment

So—how much of this can you take to screen? The invisible aliens? The telepathic alien dogs (oh, the visuals! they would amazing)? The explanation of the zones? The newsgroups? Can you move much of this from a book (not even counting the potential from the prequel A Deepness Upon The Sky which explains the story of the guy a power "resurrected" from the Slow Zone who goes on to be a part of the fight against Blight (I love the word godshatter, BTW—all sorts of visuals).

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Looking at the treatment as a logline and three acts explained on one 8.5x11 page.

  1. Act 1 in one to three paragraphs. Set the scene, dramatize the main conflicts. (Establish worlds, baby AI tries to kill the humans, a ship of them crashes on the dogpack planet. Ravna and Pham start a rescue mission for the ship.)
  2. Act 2 in two to six paragraphs. Should dramatize how the conflicts introduced in Act 1 lead to a crisis. (Xenophobia issues, difficulty getting to Tineworld)
  3. Act 3 in one to three paragraphs. Dramatize the final conflict and resolution. (Final plots play out, betrayal, revelation, and godshatter!)

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What say you?