I got a giddy little thrill when the opening credits for The Most Dangerous Game rolled:  “from the O. Henry Prize Winning Collection story by Richard Connell.”  Ohmigod, I thought, that could be me.  In the past several years, there’s been a small resurgence of movies adapted from short stories:  In the Bedroom from the Andre Dubus’ “Killings”; Jindabyne from Raymond Carver’s “So Much Water So Close to Home”; The Illusionist from Steven Millhauser’s “Eisenheim the Illusionist.”  When Zoetrope: All-Story accepts a story, the contract asks for both first serial rights and a one-year film option (previously, the right of first negotiation to acquire film rights).  Why can’t my story (or two! three!) be adapted into a film?  I’d even be willing to write sequels for as long as the franchise is profitable.

Some writers of literary fiction disdain cinematic aspirations.  Why would I want to sully my artistic output with crass commercialism? they scoff.  But I wonder if having a film made of your work is a dream which literary writers must harbor secretly, like an urge to kick pigeons.  No one wants to admit to selling-out; no one wants to be known as the pigeon abuser.

Herein lies the other dream that writers hold deep in their hearts — less of a dream, really, and more of a dagger:  I’m going to be forgotten.  Richard Connell, for example, received three O. Henry awards in his lifetime, but the rest his work has mostly faded from memory.  Indeed, if it weren’t for the film of The Most Dangerous Game, I might not have known of him at all.

Literary fame touches so few, remembers so few.  When I look at the table of contents of the PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories 2009, I wonder how many of my fellow recipients will continue to work, to be lauded.  All of them, I hope.  But Count Zaroff is a ruthless hunter, and only a lucky few escape the island; the rest end up as preserved heads in his trophy room.  The way I see it, Ha Jin, Nadine Gordimer, Paul Theroux and Junot Diaz are already on the speedboat.

It might be that I place too much stock in the idea of writing ‘for posterity.’  It also might be that the New Yorker’s list of 20 Writers Under 40 put me in the doldrums when they misspelled my name as ‘Joshua Ferris.’  But I keep going anyhow — once you’ve accepted the invitation to be the most dangerous game, you have no choice but to continue, avoiding Malay man catchers and Burmese tiger pits as necessary.

Just in case, though, I offer this memo to Hollywood executives, listing acceptable changes if you’d like to adapt my story for the screen:

· instead of regular middle school, school for ninjas.

· Vietnamese Communists to be replaced with Chinese Communists.

· add adolescent love interest and crunk dancing sequence.

· traumatic flashbacks involving carpet bombing will be shot in slow-motion.

· fewer eviscerations; more beheadings.

· post-production conversion to 3-D.

· all Asian roles can be played by white actors.

· in the end, it’s all a dream anyway.

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