John Ridley's 'Needle in a Timestack' is a Sci-Fi Adventure We've Been Waiting For

With a diverse, all-star cast and director, the adaptation will address sci-fi's tendency to be "stale, male, and pale."

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With a diverse, all-star cast and director, the adaptation will address sci-fi’s tendency to be “stale, male, and pale.”

In a recent interview with IndieWire, director James Cameron discussed the future of the science fiction genre. While he stressed the importance of works of science fiction, which he says reflect “the quintessence of being human,” he also bemoaned the genre’s lack of diversity; sci-fi is simply, in his words, too “stale, male, and pale.”

We have to agree. Sci-fi staples and modern hits are overwhelmingly white — from Alien to Ex Machina, Blade Runner to Interstellar. Despite the infinite possibilities of science fiction, a world that includes people of color often seems beyond imagination for sci-fi authors and filmmakers.

Strides, of course, are being made: films like Black PantherDirty Computer, and Wrinkle in Time all place people of color at the center of futuristic narratives. Along with Black Panther, Ava Duverney’s upcoming adaptation of Dawn has brought Afrofuturism into the spotlight. And now, the upcoming film Needle in a Timestack is about to be an exciting addition to this growing wave.

According to Deadline, filmmaker John Ridley is set to adapt Needle in a Timestack, based on Robert Silverberg’s 1966 short story of the same name. Needle in a Timestack tells the story of a couple who struggle to preserve their marriage in a world where time travel is possible, and the past and present constantly fluctuate. In keeping with its source material, Den of Geek speculates the film will follow the husband as he pursues the time-traveling rival that destroyed his marriage, encountering unexpected and even paradoxical consequences.

You can read Silverberg’s short story as it originally appeared in Playboy in 1966 here.

Ridley is best known as the Oscar-winning screenwriter of 12 Years A Slave. He’s also done exceptional work on television as the creator of the critically lauded drama series American Crime and the ambitious miniseries Guerilla. Ridley is also set to write and direct the adaptation of his own comic book series, “The American Way: Those Above and Those Below.” In his first foray into science fiction, Ridley will direct and pen the upcoming film Needle in a Timestack.

In all his work, Ridley infuses a nuanced exploration of race, confronting the history and oppression that shape the black experience. From the British black power movement to the flawed American criminal justice system to slavery in the Antebellum South, Ridley frequently probes our past and present to contemplate the complexities of race. Now, in his vision for the future, he will surely bring this same thoughtfulness and intention to the screen.

The film’s star-studded cast will bring this vision of the future — one where people of color not only exist but thrive — to life. Tony-winners Leslie Odom Jr. and Cynthia Erivo are set to star, joined by Freida Pinto and Orlando Bloom. Though specific roles haven’t been revealed, Odom Jr. and Erivo — who respectively won the Tony for Best Actor and Actress in a Musical in 2016 — would surely make a dazzling couple at the center of the film. Bloom, who has plenty of experience swashbuckling, would make for an excellent rival who’s passionately hellbent on destroying their marriage.

Having already achieved Broadway superstardom, Odom Jr. and Erivo are now well on their way to becoming full-fledged movie stars. Last year, Odom Jr. starred in Murder on the Orient Express, and Erivo will lead the upcoming Steve McQueen flick Widows. The transition from stage to screen is rarely smooth, but these two are doing it with remarkable grace and vigor. This upcoming star turn is only the beginning.

We’re also hugely excited to see Bloom and Pinto storm the big screen again, as they’ve both been laying fairly low since last year’s fifth installment of the Pirates franchise and 2015’s Knight of Cups, respectively.

With a principle cast that largely features actors of color, Needle in a Haystack promises to be a refreshing science fiction adventure, bringing to life a future that looks a lot more like our present. By reimagining Silverberg’s story with characters of color, Ridley paints a future that obliterates the white-centric vision of science and technology that sci-fi writers have perpetuated for centuries. The future is for all of us.

Writer, college student, television connoisseur.