I haven’t thought of Anne McCaffrey‘s dragon-infested Pern novels in years, but given the rate at which fantasy properties have been snapped up I’m shocked that it has taken this long for a high-profile writer to be hired to adapt them.

The Pern novels — at least the first ones, such as Dragonflight, which David Hayter has been hired to adapt — tell of a world where humans and telepathic dragons have a symbiotic relationship, the better to fend off the occasional shower of deadly burrowing spores called Threads. It’s an intricately detailed world, with plenty of raw material for a film franchise. But dragon movies don’t have the best track record, and properly putting Pern on screen would be an undertaking akin to making Avatar. Can Dragonflight take off?

Deadline says that producer Steve Hoban has been trying to make a Pern film for years. He has just hired David Hayter, voice of Metal Gear‘s Solid Snake and X-Men and Watchmen screenwriter, to adapt Dragonflight. That’s the first in Anne McCaffrey’s early Pern trilogy that describes the planet, and tells of how human colonists found their population decimated by the Threads, and how they tamed and bred the planet’s native dragons to create a sustainable force to combat the spores. But as the story begins the spores haven’t appeared for some time, and the dragon strongholds have fallen out of power and favor.

So the novel sets out the complex human society and the parallel dragon species for which different colors of dragon represent different levels of strength and status. By the time the plot is said and done there is sci-fi, fantasy, heavy doses of politics and romance, and even time travel. In some ways the early Pern books were to dragons and fantasy what the early Anne Rice Lestat books were to vampires.

This is expensive, epic, effects-heavy stuff that also requires more than a buff placeholder cast to pull off. It’s not quite like trying to adapt Dune, but it might not be too far off, either. David Hayter did manage to do a lot of condensing with X-Men and Watchmen, so he might pull it off. But there is no studio set to back this in the States — Steve Hoban is working with Dark Hero Studios and Angry Films partners Don Murphy and Susan Montford to get this one off the ground, but really making it work will take some serious backing.

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