The TV adaptation of Iain M Banks’ sci-fi Culture series has been cancelled - here’s what happened

Thursday, 27th August 2020, 3:36 pm
Updated Thursday, 27th August 2020, 3:36 pm
Amazon Studios originally gained the rights to create a TV adaptation of the book back in 2018, with the aim to make unique shows with “global appeal” for Amazon Prime Video. (Shutterstock)
Amazon Studios originally gained the rights to create a TV adaptation of the book back in 2018, with the aim to make unique shows with “global appeal” for Amazon Prime Video. (Shutterstock)

Amazon has cancelled its upcoming adaptation of Iain M Banks’ sci-fi novel, Consider Phlebas - the first book in the author’s acclaimed sci-fi Culture series.

Amazon Studios originally gained the rights to create a TV adaptation of the book back in 2018, with the aim to make unique shows with “global appeal” for Amazon Prime Video.

However, Banks’ estate has confirmed Amazon’s cancellation of the adaptation saying the “timing wasn’t quite right.”

Who was Iain M Banks?

Iain Banks was a Scottish author who wrote both sci-fi and literary fiction, and rose to prominence after his first novel, The Wasp Factory, was published in 1984.

He wrote Consider Phlebas, in 1987, which was the first in a series of novels about an interstellar society known as ‘the Culture’. Banks wrote this series using the middle initial M in order to differentiate his sci-fi work from his other fiction.

The Culture series is lauded by many as one of the greatest works of modern science fiction, for its combination of xenophobic aliens, virtual hells, and super-intelligent AIs.

Banks went on to write an additional nine novels up until 2012, before passing away in 2013, at aged 59, due to inoperable cancer.

Why was the adaptation cancelled?

Earlier this week the creator of hit show Utopia, Dennis Kelly, who was booked to adapt Consider Phlebas for Amazon’s streaming service explained to Den of Geek that work on the project had come to an end.

He said, “We’d talked about it for two or three years and it went a certain way along.

“I’d written probably 20-30 pages of the bible, but once I got a sense that it wasn’t going to happen, I had to stop writing because you become emotionally attached to the work.”

Kelly went on to explain that the decision was ultimately down to Banks’ estate, although the reason remains a mystery, as it has offered no explanation for the project’s end.

“In the end, I just think the estate didn’t want to go through with it. It wasn’t the material,” he commented.

“It was just because I think they weren’t ready to do it, for whatever reason. I’m a little mystified myself, to be honest.”

In a statement, Banks’ estate said that “the interest and devotion that Iain’s work continues to inspire is a testament to the enduring relevance of his ideas and imagination” and that it was “hugely grateful for all the care and creative energy that went into the early stages of the project.”