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Amazon is turning Simon Stålenhag’s haunting retro sci-fi paintings into a TV series

Amazon is turning Simon Stålenhag’s haunting retro sci-fi paintings into a TV series


Amazon’s answer to Stranger Things, adapted by Legion writer Nathaniel Halpern

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Art: Simon Stålenhag

Over the last couple of years, Swedish artist Simon Stålenhag has earned considerable acclaim for Tales from the Loop, a science fiction art book that juxtaposes a sense of nostalgia for the rural countryside against an alternate, futuristic past. Yesterday, Amazon ordered a series based on the book, to be adapted by Legion writer Nathaniel Halpern.

Variety reports that the project will be a co-production with Fox 21 Television Studios, which was responsible for such shows as Sons of Anarchy and American Crime Story. Mark Romanek (Never Let Me Go) will direct the pilot for the show and will be an executive producer. In 2013, Stålenhag told The Verge that his art was inspired by his childhood in rural Sweden and his love of the science fiction films he watched at the time. “The only difference in the world of my art and our world is that ... ever since the early 20th century, attitudes and budgets were much more in favor of science and technology.” Sharon Tal Yguado, head of scripted genre programming for Amazon Studios, said that “Nathaniel is a gifted storyteller who shares our passion for creating soulful, human stories that push the boundaries of genre programming, and we’re thrilled to be working with him on this series.”

Another of Stålenhag’s books Electric State, has also been optioned for film

Tales from the Loop is the first of several science fiction art books from Stålenhag. It was adapted as an RPG in 2016, and followed by another book set in the same world called Tales from the Flood. Last year, he Kickstarted a standalone art book in the same style called Electric State, which was quickly optioned by Avengers: Infinity War directors Joe and Anthony Russo.

On Twitter, Stålenhag revealed a couple of details, saying that the show won’t be based on the RPG, but on the original art book, and that it will draw on both Tales from the Loop and Tales from the Flood. More significantly, the series won’t be set in Sweden: it’ll be set in the US, following a “personal American story,” instead of trying to mimic the “Swedishness of the book.”

That departure is significant, given how central the rural Swedish setting is to the world that he’s created. However, these aren’t novels featuring a conventional story; they’re art books that offer an impressionistic look into a world populated with hulking robots, strange science experiments, and even dinosaurs, all alongside boxy Volvo station wagons and isolated homes in the midst of the wilderness. The world that he’s created has been compared to Netflix’s Stranger Things, which likewise drew on a sense of nostalgia and strange sciences to great acclaim.