The past few years have seen the film debuts of a new generation of science fiction auteurs, and as with any filmmaker following up a strong debut the pressure to avoid a sophomore slump is intense. Duncan Jones followed the brilliant Moon with the solidly entertaining (and somewhat more commercial) Source Code. Neill Blomkamp impressed with District 9 and is currently filming his next movie, Elysium, with Matt Damon and Jodie Foster. The third director in this tiny fraternity is Joe Cornish, whose Attack the Block thrilled and entertained the dozens of viewers smart enough to see it in theaters last year (and the many more who discovered it on DVD).

Cornish hasn’t been sitting idle as he also co-wrote the screenplay for Steven Spielberg’s The Adventures of Tintin and has been attached to Edgar Wright’s long rumored Ant-Man movie. But his next directorial effort has been a mystery until now.

Per Deadline Ancient Sumeria, Cornish has just signed with Paramount to write and direct an adaptation of Neal Stephenson‘s bestselling cyberpunk novel, “Snow Crash.” The 1992 novel follows the adventures of a pizza delivery guy trying to stop the spread of a deadly new computer virus that kills users exposed to its effects. The book’s Wikipedia page offers a detailed breakdown of the story, but the following synopsis should be enough to either whet your appetite or confuse the hell out of you.

At the beginning of the novel, the main character, Hiro Protagonist, discovers the name of a new pseudo-narcotic, “Snow Crash”, being offered at an exclusive Metaverse nightclub. Hiro’s friend and fellow hacker falls victim to Snow Crash’s effects, which are apparently unique in that they are experienced in the Metaverse and also in the physical world. Hiro uses his computer hacking, sharp cognitive skills, and sword-fighting to uncover the mystery of “Snow Crash”; his pursuit takes the reader on a tour of the Sumerian culture, a fully instantiated anarcho-capitalist society, and a virtual meta-society patronized by financial, social, and intellectual elites. As the nature of Snow Crash is uncovered, Hiro finds that self-replicating strings of information can affect objects in a uniform manner even though they may be broadcast via diverse media, a realization that reinforces his chosen path in life.”

So yeah. Good luck with that one, Mr. Cornish.

Those of us unfamiliar with Stephenson’s novel may not have strong opinions on the pros and cons of this particular adaptation, but film fans in general should be thrilled at the idea of a major studio taking on something this complicated in today’s remake and lowest common denominator-filled film industry. It could be part of a new and growing trend of studios willing to take a risk, both financially and creatively, on established works of genre fiction with substantial audiences.

Tom Twyker and the Wachowskis are currently filming David Mitchell’s epic Cloud Atlas for WB, and Gavin Hood is in production on Orson Scott Card’s beloved Ender’s Game for Summit. Dan Simmons’ Hyperion and Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War sit tantalizingly close to being green-lit, and Iain Banks has a shelf full of Culture novels that could form the basis for a fascinatingly deep series of films. None of these projects are/will be cheap, but the reward for fans of smart sci-fi cinema could be immeasurable.

Seriously though, good luck, Joe.


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