UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Failure of cinematic (re)creation : speculative adaptation and science fiction cult film Omercikli, Ipek


In 2011, media scholar Simone Murray encouraged other scholars to consider the “analytical blind spots” of adaptation theory, arguing that the field needed to move away from textual, aesthetic, and comparative evaluations of literary adaptations to instead consider the cultural economy behind the process. This thesis builds on this view while not completely disregarding the realm of the textual or the aesthetic. Rather, I analyze how these evaluations materialize in specific cultural, historical, and reception contexts, transforming or crystallizing in time though never retaining a static aesthetic or social value. This dynamic and conjectural aspect of adaptation leads me to consider adaptation-as-process as inherently speculative and concerned simultaneously with the present and future of a text; in this way the questions of science fiction coincide with those of adaptation studies, making it possible to lay grounds for a specific theoretical and analytic plane for studying SF adaptations. I then define what I call “speculative adaptation”: that is, science fiction adaptation that looks to the future of a text—not just through its generic conventions but through its historical, cultural, and industrial processes. Adaptation is also often concerned with the concept of fidelity and failure in the form of poor market performance, critical and audience reception, or the author’s disavowal. I complicate this concept of failure in adaptation and posit that SF as a genre is the most suited for illustrating this complication because of the volume of SF films labeled as failures, especially those that have gained a cult status. To do so, I focus on film adaptations that were either produced or abandoned at the production stage during the 1970s and the 1980s and aimed at American audiences: Frank Pavich’s Jodorowsky’s Dune (2013), a documentary on Alejandro Jodorowsky’s attempts to adapt Frank Herbert’s influential novel Dune to the screen in the mid-70s, Ken Russell’s adaptation of Paddy Chayefsky’s novel, Altered States (1980), and David Cronenberg’s adaptation of William Burroughs’ novel of the same name, Naked Lunch (1991).

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