Last month, it was announced that Hugh Howey’s Wool was heading to Apple TV, and since that announcement, the Down Deep has been working on a new feature in collaboration with a small group of indie authors and editors.
I’m pleased to announce Through the Pages: Wool, a weekly discussion on various chapters in Wool as we reread the book in anticipation of the upcoming adaptation and log in our predictions on what will stay, what will go, what might be added, and what lines we want to see make it in. Will beloved small characters be cut? Merged? Will seemingly small characters gain a bigger role?
Through the Pages: Wool will be published each Thursday, covering a group of chapters in Wool.
The six Through the Pages: Wool contributors will include five Wool veterans and one Wool newbie.
I’ve felt for a while that the entire Holston part of Wool (originally “Wool 1”) would make one really good pilot episode, or in this case, one really good premiere episode since the show is already ordered for a full season. Upon rereading, that opinion hasn’t changed, though I’d really like to see the opening shots being kept the same, with Holston’s heavily burdened climb up the worn stairs as the opener.
A lot of the dialogue seems like it could transition over nicely as-is, and I hope they do that, because I still remember the thrill of hearing word-for-word book lines in Season 1 of Game of Thrones. The time-jumping from past to present would work nicely as well, and I think it would serve to help with initial world-building for people new to the story, so I think we’ll get to see flashbacks to Allison and Holston in the past (as opposed to just references to the past), with the demeanor of Holston serving as a nice contrast between both time periods. I think in general, I want “Holston” to be contained to the first episode because I really just want show newbies to experience that same twist the book fans did.
Lines that should make it in: Holston: “Get the mayor. Tell her I want to go outside.”
Casting: For years and years, Andrew Lincoln has been the Holston in my head. I don’t know if it’s just the timing of peak Walking Dead, the sheriff role, or just his broodiness, but I’ve never been able to shake the idea of him. For Allison, I haven’t put too much thought into who would play her, as her role is a small one. For Marnes, I used to picture Sam Elliott, but he may be too old now for what I’d imagined in my head. I don’t recall how old he actually is, but someone with a deep voice and grizzled look would fit, like Jeff Bridges or holy sh*t Idris Elba in my dreams. For Jahns, someone calm but strong, like Jane Lynch or Alfre Woodard. I haven’t given much thought about who would play Nelson.
Crystal Watanabe, freelance fiction editor
Crystal Watanabe is the owner and lead editor of Pikko’s House, writer of the weekly editors webcomic SimpleMarkup, creator of the Book Lovers Box®, and co-author of the Yum-Yum Bento Box cookbooks. A longtime fan of Wool, Crystal originally founded TheDownDeep.net in 2012. She lives in Honolulu, Hawaii, with her husband, three kids, and three dogs.
WOOL is at once a mystery thriller and a science ficton novel of ideas, and translating a work of ideas into a visual medium is always difficult, especially with “Holston,” an episode filled with the main character’s thoughts and flashbacks. Putting myself in the shoes of the director or scriptwriter, what should I start with? One approach would be to follow Sheriff Holston’s trek up the stairs as in the book, through the various levels, his reverie moving from the children’s voices to the ill-fated efforts with his wife Allison to have their own child, the first views of the outside world, and the march into the cell.
But the mystery of WOOL begins with the title, and as a filmmaker, I feel like I would open a film with a reference to this with a sleight of hand that Hugh Howey himself uses, a magician’s misdirection of the many meanings of the word. Picture this: the screen to the outside world, dark and grimy, and then Allison’s gloved hand wiping the camera lens with a piece of wool cloth, swiping that wool literally (and figuratively) over the viewer’s eyes. We see her face, briefly, then she walks away towards the hill in the distance, and disappears out of view, leaving the landscape stark and empty to the viewers in the Silo, including Holston. That would immediately give the viewer a handle on one meaning of the title, and set up the momentum and motivation for the rest of the episode. I would focus then on Holston and his relationship with his wife, perhaps as they try for their child, and then the story as Allison uncovers some of the Silo’s past—the information that eventually leads her outside and leads to Holston’s unavoidable journey following his wife’s footsteps.
Casting: Here’s a fun casting, with not too much thought, although you might recognize that they had roles in some major SF films, perfect for the WOOL demographic: Holston: Matt Damon (it’ll be a shocker for viewers when they realize it’s the end of the road), Allison: Kate Mara, Marnes: Jeff Daniels, Jahns: Jodie Foster or Charlize Theron.
Samuel Peralta, bestselling author and editor
Samuel Peralta is a USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author, series editor of the acclaimed Future Chronicles anthologies, editorial director for Gravity City digital magazine, and producer of the Emmy® award winning film Real Artists. He is the principal on the Lunar Codex mission launching time capsules carrying the work of over 3000 creative artists—including a story from Hugh Howey!—to the Moon.
When it comes to storytelling, there’s an assumption that the first person we’re introduced to is the protagonist, so the fact that Holston dies at the start of the book subverts our most basic expectation, so I suspect this will be the focus of the first episode, even if it means that episode runs longer than others. For me, this makes the rest of the story unpredictable. Once the main character is gone, all bets are off for everyone else, regardless of how likeable they might be—even if they’re the main protagonist. This makes for the perfect opening regardless of format (book or screen). Those who aren’t familiar with the story are going to get blindsided by what happens to Holston, and it’ll set them on edge for the rest of the series.
Another thing I like about the opening is that Hugh Howey uses the classic, “Enter late, leave early” concept of writing. We’re on the stairs within this silo. There’s no world-building. We’re simply dropped in the deep. The reader (or as it will be, the viewer) is immersed in a foreign world, one they need to start deciphering as the story unfolds. In this regard, Wool is reminiscent of Snowpiercer in that the reader is shown a fully developed world and expected to figure things out as the story develops. To my mind, this treats the reader/viewer as smart enough to figure things out without everything being spelled out. I suspect we’ll see the same kind of immersion in the TV adaptation. If you don’t know the significance of the stairs and porters, hang in there and before long, you will.
Peter Cawdron, bestselling science fiction author
Peter is the Australian science fiction author of the First Contact series of novels exploring the concept of humanity’s first interaction with extraterrestrial life. He specializes in making hard science fiction easy to understand and thoroughly enjoyable. Peter is a fan of classic science fiction writers such as Philip K. Dick, Arthur C. Clarke and Michael Crichton, and their influence on his style and storylines is readily apparent.
The thing I loved most about these first few chapters of Wool were the mystery and the atmosphere. I really hope we don’t see a text crawl or text pane that dumps a lot of silo backstory on us in the first few moments of the TV show. I’d love to see wide, establishing shots of the inside of the silo, the staircase, the projection screens, and the view outside. I think it’s important that the show keep the gritty feel of the silo and its clear age, but I’m worried they’ll wash it away in some white-wall-chrome-everywhere sci-fi look.
Casting: I’d love to see a heavy-hitting actor for Holston, someone like a Tom Hardy or Alexander Skarsgard, who can convey that world-weary and tough vibe.
Angela Traficante, freelance editor and author
Angela Traficante is a freelance fiction editor, urban fantasy author, and general lover of all things fantasy and sci-fi. When she’s not fiddling around with words, she’s making time to travel, figure skate, and bake sweet treats. This is Angela’s first time reading Wool.
The opening scene was what sold this book, not only to me, but to countless others. Hugh knocked it out of the park with Holston’s journey up the stairs, giving us an unforgettable character as well as showing the wear and tear of the silo. The reader really gets a feel for this well-worn place, all while asking: What the heck is going on? It really gave readers a familiarity with something—a place they would come to know—all while telling them something wasn’t quite right.
These first three chapters really tell the audience there is a mystery—and that it stretches back for generations—but that as an audience we’re going to slowly unravel that mystery through the eyes of a few characters. The silo is a place of rules, and Holston is the ultimate rule follower, but as the book opens, he breaks one of the biggest rules they have. One cannot want to go outside. That yearning will never be satiated, and so they must go. To me, Holston feels old, but based on his backstory with his wife, Allison, it’s clear he isn’t more than his late thirties or so. But the death of a wife can do that to a person.
Jahns definitely has some mystery to her. She seems sympathetic, but also resigned to fulfil her obligation as mayor. She doesn’t want to do what she does, but is convinced if she doesn’t that it could spell bad things for the rest of the population. I love that chapter 3 is a flashback—lets the audience know about Allison—about the “sleeping boulder” outside the airlock.
Lines that should make the show: Holston: “Get the mayor. Tell her I want to go outside.” Allison: “Who says we are the good guys?” What a great line—really foreshadows a ton of what might be coming in this book.
Casting: Sheriff Holston – I’m going to throw out a name that is probably too big for this: Andrew Garfield. His thin frame would be great to show the wear the years have put on him in the silo and he’s a huge name that would be shocking to only be in the first couple episodes. It’s gonna be on Apple, though, and they’ve got tons of cash. Make it happen, Tim Cook!
Allison – Unless they dramatically alter the way the story is told, this would essentially be told through flashbacks. I’ll go with Cristin Milioti. I saw her a few months ago in Palm Springs, the R-rated Groundhog Day. She pulled off fun, but with an edge of crazy pretty well and I think that might be what’s needed here.
Mayor Jahns – Alfre Woodard would be a great choice. Old enough to have the experience needed to pull it off, but has the range to be mysterious. You could see her being both good or bad, depending on the scene.
Will Swardstrom, speculative fiction author
Will Swardstrom is a speculative fiction author of multiple novels and many short stories on an indefinite hiatus from publishing due to teaching, family life, and an international pandemic. He read Wool in the summer of 2012 and has written multiple short stories in Hugh Howey’s Silo Universe.
Although there may not be a lot happening physically in these opening chapters, there’s an awful lot going on in the background. While we initially see Holston climbing, other information about this world we’ve been suddenly dropped into comes to light. Little details, expertly placed tell us just enough to paint a vivid picture of where we are and who we’re dealing with. It’s easy to forget, having read only the omnibus edition, that what we were reading was initially a short story. As a first episode, it could almost be a standalone, but it has to do the same job as the initial chapters and get the viewers settled in without too much exposition, while still giving enough insight into the mysteries of the silo’s past.
As Wool fans, we should probably realize at this point that the target audience is so much broader than us now, so while these scenes are so important to us in the context of a first episode, they may decide to change things around chronologically, but I’d like to see at least this part of the story told the same way as the book. This was, after all, what drew us all into the world of the silos. That said, it will be hard for the studio to bench their big star for the first episode, so I fully expect Juliette to make an appearance in some shape or form. I also have a sneaking suspicion Holston’s big reveal may be delayed for an episode or two.
Casting: First actor that came to mind for Holston for me was Jason Bateman, although I think Timothy Olyphant would be great too. I was thinking Whoopi Goldberg for Jahns and Gary Cole would be great for Marnes. Allison’s a tough one, but given her performances of late, I’d love to see Kate Winslet give it a shot.
Eamon Ambrose, science fiction author
Eamon Ambrose is the author of the post-apocalyptic sci-fi serial Zero Hour and the novella Love and Other Algorithms, as well as several short stories published in Samuel Peralta’s Future Chronicles and Daniel Arthur Smith’s Tales From the Canyons of the Damned anthologies.
And that’s it! We hope you’ve enjoyed reading our show predictions for the first three chapters. Join us next week for our analysis of Chapter 4–7. If you like, reread along with us and comment below with your own predictions!