While news continues to trickle out about the second season of MASTERS OF HORROR, not as much has been reported about the corresponding series MASTERS OF SCIENCE FICTION that is also in development. Screenwriter Josh Olson, a recent Oscar nominee for scripting David Cronenberg’s A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE, reveals to Fango that he’s working on an episode that should hold some Fangorian appeal. “It’s an adaptation of a Harlan Ellison story called ‘The Discarded,’ ” Olson tells us. “It’s about a bunch of mutant freaks who are shunted off into space to get them off of Earth. I don’t want to say much more about the plot—the story’s out there if people want to read it—but there’s going to be a lot of heavy makeup, I’m sure.
“I’ve been adapting the story with Harlan, which has been an amazing experience,” says Olson, a longtime fan of the venerable science fiction author. “An English teacher in 9th grade give me a copy of his anthology ELLISON WONDERLAND, and I was about halfway through reading it when I decided I wanted to be a writer. So after I’d been nominated [for VIOLENCE], I was wondering if I could take advantage of it and meet my hero—because I knew I wasn’t going to win; if I had, I would have thanked him in my speech. We have a mutual friend, the production designer Bill [RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD] Stout, and I thought maybe I could snag a lunch with Harlan out of him. So I guess Bill called Harlan, who was eager to talk to me; when we got together, I couldn’t get a word in edgewise, He was a huge fan of HISTORY OF VIOLENCE, and said he voted for me in the Writers Guild Awards.
“He had just signed on to do MASTERS OF SCIENCE FICTION, and they were going to adapt ‘The Discarded,’ ” Olson continues. “They had asked him if he wanted to do it himself or work with a partner, and he said he wanted to do it with another writer. They asked him if he had any names, and I believe he gave them a couple, and one of them was ‘That cat who wrote HISTORY OF VIOLENCE’—this was before I had gotten in touch with him! So he asked if I wanted to team up with him, to which, of course, I said yes. We’ve become great friends, and had a great time.”
Olson notes that they’ve had a great deal of freedom in scripting the episode, and that he has had little contact with MASTERS’ producers. “I haven’t even met them; I’ve only talked to a guy named Keith Addis a couple of times,” the writer says. “Harlan’s really the point man on this. This is absolutely the best thing to come out of the Oscar nomination!”
Unsurprisingly, a number of offers have come Olson’s way since his VIOLENCE success, including some horror projects, “but nothing that really jumps out.” While ALONE, a haunted-house chiller he scripted for New Line and director Allen (X FILES) Coulter, appears to have stalled, Olson is still hard at work on MONSTER, the manga adaptation, also for New Line. “I’ve just handed in the first draft,” he reports. “It’s a huge project—it’s a 3,800-page book, so there’s a lot of material to whip into shape. It’s getting there, but we’re a little ways off from looking for a director.” The story of a doctor who saves a young boy’s life and later discovers that his patient is a diabolical murderer carries some frightening elements, and Olson, who first won notice as writer/director of the killer-bug movie INFESTED, says, “Horror is a genre I love, and I’d still like to go back and do a real horror film.”