EXCLUSIVE: Iain M. Banks’ classic sci-fi Culture book series is headed to television. Amazon Studios has acquired the global TV rights to the first novel in the series, Consider Phlebas, with Utopia creator Dennis Kelly set to pen the TV adaptation, Plan B Entertainment (World War Z Moonlight) slated to produce and the Estate of Iain Banks attached as executive producer. The book had been pursued by a number of top film and TV producers.
The 10-book series by Scottish writer Banks is set in a fictional interstellar utopian society, the Culture, which features humanoids, aliens, and advanced artificial intelligences living in Socialist habitats spread across the Milky Way galaxy.
A kinetic, action-packed adventure on a huge canvas, Consider Phlebas draws upon the extraordinary world and mythology Banks created in the Culture, in which a highly advanced and progressive society ends up at war with the Idirans, a deeply religious, warlike race intent on dominating the entire galaxy.
The story centers on Horza, a rogue agent tasked by the Idirans with the impossible mission of recovering a missing Culture ‘Mind,’ an artificial intelligence many thousands of times smarter than any human—something that could hold the key to wiping out the Culture altogether. What unfolds, with Banks’ trademark irreverent humor, ultimately asks the poignant question of how we can use technology to preserve our humanity, not surrender it.
“The story of the Culture is so rich and captivating that for years Hollywood has been trying to bring this utopian society to life on the screen,” said Sharon Tal Yguado, Head of Scripted Series at Amazon Studios. “We are honored that we have been chosen, along with Dennis Kelly and Plan B Entertainment, to make Consider Phlebas into a television series we think will be loved by fans for years to come.”
Consider Phlebas is part of Amazon’s push into big scope genre series — science fiction, action, fantasy and horror– an area Tal Yguado had been tapped to oversee early last year before becoming Amazon’s head of scripted in the fall, following the exit of the studio’s top executives.
As part of the effort, Amazon made a mega deal for a Lord Of the Rings TV series and is developing a slew of high-profile titles, including The Dark Tower, Wheel of Time, Ringworld, Lazarus and Snow Crash.
“Iain Banks has long been a hero of mine, and his innate warmth, humor and humanism shines through these novels,” said Kelly. “Far from being the dystopian nightmares that we are used to, Banks creates a kind of flawed paradise, a society truly worth fighting for—rather than a warning from the future, his books are a beckoning.”
Kelly is the creator of the International Emmy-winning 2013 British series Utopia and also did a rewrite of World War Z 2 for Plan B.
“We revere the work of Iain Banks and continue to be moved by his inimitable spirit and his commitment to imagining a better future even in the darkest of times,” said Plan B in a statement. “Consider Phlebas, simultaneously explores the deepest questions concerning humanity and our future. We are so grateful to the Estate of Iain Banks for the opportunity to bring his work to life, and to Amazon for the scope of their ambition to building Iain’s prescient world.”