The late science fiction author Iain M. Banks’ ten-book space opera, his The Culture series, will see the first story turned into an Amazon TV series, the company announced on Wednesday. Given the epic proportions of the series, and founder Jeff Bezos’ mandate that Amazon get its own Game of Thrones, could The Culture be it?
Dennis Kelly will adapt the 1987 book for a TV series in collaboration with Plan B Entertainment (which produced World War Z, 12 Years a Slave, The Big Short, Moonlight, and Feud). Kelly has also been tapped to rewrite World War Z 2, which will be directed by David Fincher. In its announcement, Amazon noted it had only acquired the rights to the first book, not the full series.
“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, in the announcement. “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.”
The last part of her quote is interesting because one could easily envision Banks’ entire The Culture series being turned into a sprawling TV series that lasts years. Could this be Amazon’s Game of Thrones? Interviews in the last few months show that Amazon is looking for one.
“I do think Game of Thrones is to TV as Jaws and Star Wars was to the movies of the 1970s,” Amazon Studios chief Roy Price told Variety last September. “It’ll inspire a lot of people. Everybody wants a big hit and certainly that’s the show of the moment in terms of being a model for a hit.”
If you haven’t read Banks’ series, here’s how Amazon describes the first book:
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.
And let this succinct Wikipedia description for The Culture series assure you there’s no world-building needed. There’s already a fictional universe there: “The stories center on the Culture, a utopian, post-scarcity space society of humanoids, aliens, and very advanced artificial intelligences living in Socialist habitats spread across the Milky Way galaxy.”
“Iain Banks has long been a hero of mine, and his innate warmth, humor and humanism shines through these novels,” Kelly said in the release. “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.”
No release date or number of episodes were announced by Amazon in the announcement.
We’d be remiss for not mentioning that Bezos’ chief rival in the private space race, Elon Musk, is a huge fan of Banks’ The Culture series, so much so that he names his autonomous drone ships used for ocean rocket landings, after the massive sentient ships in The Player of Games, the second book in the series.