CIA’s ‘Argo’ plot was inspired by Roger Zelazny’s novel ‘Lord of Light’

By now many people have seen the trailer for Ben Affleck’s new film “Argo.” The film’s plot explores the background behind a zany CIA cover story to rescue Iran hostages in 1979, with agents posing as filmmakers on a Middle Eastern location scout for an imaginary science fiction film “Argo”. What is lesser known is that the ruse was inspired by one of science fiction’s great novels “Lord of Light,” crafted by one of its most inventive writers, Roger Zelazny.

And now filmmaker Judd Ehrlich is exploring this story within a story in the documentary “Science Fiction Land: A Stranger Than Fiction Doc.”

According to Ehrlich’s Kickstarter page, in the mid-70s a guy by the name of Barry Ira Geller bought the rights to Zelazny’s award-winning novel “Lord of Light,” adapted it as a screenplay, then enlisted an all-star team of creatives to make it into a blockbuster and “the world’s first science fiction theme park — Science Fiction Land.” The team included legendary comics artist Jack Kirby; Hollywood makeup and special effects artists John Chambers & Maurice Stein; architect Paolo Soleri; science fiction author Ray Bradbury; and noted futurist Buckminster Fuller.

CIA's 'Argo' plot was inspired by Roger Zelazny's novel 'Lord of Light'

The project ultimately fell through, but Geller noticed years later that his script and Kirby’s designs were used by CIA agent Tony Mendez (played by Affleck) for the Iran hostage rescue plan. Mendez changed the title from “Lord of Light” to “Argo.”

Maybe two film projects, one a narrative the other a documentary, will revive interest in Zelazny’s masterpiece to the point where we’ll actually see it made into a film. And even if it isn’t, the various simulacra at work in the mess of spies, filmmakers, science fiction story tellers, etc., would truly fascinate Jean Baudrillard.

Watch the “Science Fiction Land” trailer below.

CIA's 'Argo' plot was inspired by Roger Zelazny's novel 'Lord of Light'