Producer Allen Bain recently launched a new production company called Bainframe, which he set up to focus on adapting some of science fiction’s classic novels. Earlier today, news broke on Deadline that the company had optioned one of the best hard science-fiction novels of the past few decades: Allen M. Steele’s Coyote, which was originally serialized in Asimov’s Science Fiction in 2001. Set several decades in the future, Coyote presents a United States that has become an oppressive, dystopian nation. Its leaders decide to send colonists to a potentially habitable moon orbiting 47 Ursae Majoris, 46 light-years away. But just before the launch of the ship, a group of dissidents steal the ship and replace its crew, bent on starting a new life far out in space.
To Bain, Coyote is an example of what television needs right now: a classic work of optimistic science fiction, harking back to the original Star Trek series. And it’s exactly what he hopes Bainframe will bring to the medium. "Part of the reason for creating the company and taking an optimistic sci-fi slant is to inspire a whole new generation to dream of what can be." he says. "I’m not making light and fluffy sci-fi pieces where everything is right and utopian. It’s more of where society can go."
Star Trek, says Bain, inspired an entire generation when it came to everything from technology to society. Unfortunately, that type of optimism has petered out along with the grander vision of the space race. Instead of a future optimistically imagined by the likes of Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek, we ended up with Ron Moore's Battlestar Galactica reboot: gritty, down-to-earth and cynical.
Instead of Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek, we got Ron Moore's Battlestar Galactica
But Bain believes that now is the best time for a resurgence. Companies like SpaceX and Blue Origins have been launching their own rockets to fulfill their owners’ lofty ambitions of getting to Mars, and a mission to the Red Planet is one of NASA’s top priorities, as part of a renewed focus on deep space exploration. Given recent events in space, from New Horizon’s mission to Pluto, Kepler’s discovery of new worlds and NASA’s findings of new evidence of water on Europa, television could be primed for a new space adventure. "Scientifically, it looks plausible," Bain says. "We have some neighbors that that are potentially habitable and within our reach, maybe not within your lifetime or mine, but soon?" Bain pointed to the recent discovery of Proxima b as an example. "I think Coyote strikes a chord there."
Steele’s series takes its name from a moon of a planet named Bear in the Ursae Majoris system, where much of the series is set. Coyote makes a point of getting the scientific details right, but also examines the social and political ramifications of setting up a new society far from Earth. Over the course of nine sequels, the series grew to cover a takeover from Earth, a galactic diaspora, and ancient alien megastructures. While Steele has had a long career writing hard science fiction, Coyote remains one of his most famous works, and it’s gained a passionate fanbase since it was first published. He’ll be returning to the series with several new short stories in the coming months.
Bain discovered Coyote in the comments section of an article on io9, and picked it up. "I started reading it and couldn’t put it down," he recalls. "It was reminiscent of [Heinlein’s] military sci-fi, but it was relatable, and I burned through the first five books." Bain optioned Robert Heinlein’s novel The Man Who Sold The Moon and Octavia Butler’s novel Dawn as his company’s first two projects. Coyote will be its third. Bain says he was drawn to the novel because "Coyote shows us what we can technically achieve [planetary colonization], and how we can successfully build a new type of society. Further along in the series, the society on Coyote surpasses Earth in so many ways."
Bain has worked as a producer on a number of dramatic films like Revenge of the Green Dragon and Two Men In Town, but he always loved science fiction. When he decided to leave and form his own outfit, he wanted to go back to his roots. "I decided if I’m going to devote my life to making films and TV, which takes a lot of passion and a lot of time," he says, "I might as well do something that I love."
Bain hopes that Coyote will be science fiction's Game of Thrones
The evolution of the television industry in the last decade and a half, he said, has also created as an opportunity for smart, story-driven science-fiction shows. Where early series like Star Trek were episodic in nature, the rise of newer shows like The Sopranos or Game of Thrones has demonstrated that longer, serialized stories would be successful. "Instead of telling an hour-and-a-half or two-hour story, you can now tell a 13- or 100-hour story with the same characters, without having to bend to your audience or advertisers." Bain isn’t sure whether science fiction has really had its Game of Thrones moment, but he hopes Coyote, with its family saga set across generations, will fill that gap.
In the meantime, Bain says he has a "long list" of books on his wish list for adaptations, but he’s focused on bringing his Butler, Heinlein, and Steele projects to fruition first. An option on all three works doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ll be appearing next season on television, but Bain says he’s engaged in talks to bring them to life, and he’s confident in their success, particularly with Coyote. "People have reached out to me, telling me that they’re fans of the book," he says. "I think the prospects are great."