They did it. They canceled Culture.
In 2018, Amazon announced that it had picked up the rights to adapt Iain M. Banks’ epic space opera novel Consider Phlebas, as part of a broader effort to develop a bigger catalog of shows that would have “global appeal” for audiences, on par with the likes of Game of Thrones.
While Amazon has produced several shows that fit that mandate, like The Expanse, Carnival Row, The Boys, Jack Ryan, and others, its potential Culture series won’t join that lineup, according to Den of Geek.
The site spoke with Dennis Kelly, who is about to launch a new series for the streaming service, Utopia, based on the series from Channel 4, as well as The Third Day, for HBO. According to Kelly, “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.”
Ultimately, he says, it sounds like the lack of interest came not from Amazon, but from Banks’ estate. “I just think the estate didn’t want to go through with it. It wasn’t the material. They hadn’t seen anything [he had written], it was just because I think they weren’t ready to do it, for whatever reason.”
In a statement to The Guardian, Banks’ estate said that “timing wasn’t quite right,” and that it’s “hugely grateful for all the care and creative energy that went into the early stages of the project.”
It seems that other shows that Amazon announced alongside Consider Phebas aren’t happening either: Ringworld doesn’t seem to be moving forward, while the adaptation of Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash has since moved over to HBO’s new streaming service, HBO Max. But, Amazon certainly isn’t hurting for big adaptations: it picked up the rights for a series (for at least two seasons) set in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth, Fallout, William Gibson’s The Peripheral, and got halfway through filming the first season of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time before the COVID shutdown.
Still, it’s a shame that an adaptation of Banks’ series won’t be going forward: over the course of 10 novels, he developed an incredible, epic world that remains one of the most beloved, intellectually-stimulating science fiction stories out there.