J. Michael Straczynski Adapting Harlan Ellison’s Classic “Repent, Harlequin!”

Harlan Ellison’s best short story gets the script treatment from the creator of BABYLON 5. Will any studios buy?

Here’s one I never thought to see adapted: “Repent, Harlequin!” Said the Ticktockman, by Harlan Ellison. The classic short story - one of the most reprinted stories in English (regardless of genre) is a fairly experimental, stream of consciousness and non-linear story set in a dystopian future where being late is a crime that takes time off your life.

The titular Harlequin is a playful anarchic rebel who creates havoc in this time-obsessed society while the Ticktockman is the Master Timekeeper, the guy who keeps track of everybody’s time infractions. Filled with run-on sentences and sentence fragments and weird little outbursts the story is a joy to read and one of Ellison’s best. It’s just not particularly cinematic.

J. Michael Straczynski seems to disagree. I’ve learned that he’s done a spec adaptation of the story, which is now out to studios. I don’t have a copy of the script, but the logline indicates that the comic book/TV writer has expanded the focus a bit:

A story about time, revolution, love, joy, terror, and the power of one man to change the world by saying no to power and the the tyranny of the clock.

Re-reading the story I can see the basic outline of a movie here, although it’s very similar to Fox’s upcoming I Am Mortal; still, it’ll be intriguing to see what Straczynski does with the material. And what name the purchasing studio slaps on the film. No way they’re releasing it with a title that interesting. It’ll probably end up called On The Clock or Out Of Time or something.