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Sci Fi Gets Earthsea, Other Miniseries

The Sci Fi Channel has green-lighted a big-budget miniseries based on Ursula Le Guin's Earthsea trilogy. The miniseries will be produced by Lawrence Bender (The Mexican) and Kevin Brown (Roswell).

"Projects like Earthsea are important to us," said Bonnie Hammer, president of the Sci Fi Channel. "We want the showbiz community to stand up and take notice that Sci Fi Channel is no longer that little cabler you don't have to pay attention to."

"Earthsea is one of the most influential sci-fi fantasy series ever," Brown said. "You see elements of it in everything from 'Star Wars' to 'Harry Potter.' We hope to show with this mini-series why the original is still the best.

Brown and Bender still need to find a screenwriter to adapt the original trilogy: The Wizard of Earthsea, Tales of Earthsea and Tombs of Atuan. The sixth among Le Guin's Earthsea series, The Other Wind, will be released this fall. After a script is completed, Sci Fi will decide whether to produce Earthsea in-house or to solicit the involvement of a major studio. 

Sci Fi has been gradually raising its profile and ratings with a mix of acquired programming, like Babylon 5 and Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, and original programming, like its hit series The Invisible Man and Farscape. The record ratings earned in December by its six-hour miniseries Frank Herbert's Dune have proven that quality adaptations of classic science fiction novels can pay off. Sci Fi is targeting well-known science fiction novels because it makes it possible to attract equity partnership deals from foreign broadcasters to help defray production costs.

In addition to Earthsea, Sci Fi will also produce a 20-hour miniseries called Taken, in conjunction with Steven Spielberg and DreamWorks; a six-hour sequel to Dune, a four-hour sequel to Stephen King's novel Firestarter and a four-hour adaptation of the Kim Stanley Robinson novel Red Mars.