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Sci-Fi Books Entertainment

Amazon Is Developing a TV Series Based On Iain M. Banks' Sci-Fi Novel 'Consider Phlebas' ( 104

leathered writes: Jeff Bezos today announced that Amazon Studios has picked up the rights to adapt the late Iain M. Bank's acclaimed Culture novels to the small screen, beginning with the first in the series, Consider Phlebas. This comes after nearly three decades of attempts to bring Banks' utopian, post-scarcity society to film or television. A huge fan of the Culture series is Elon Musk, whose SpaceX drone ships are named after Culture space vessels. Here's how Amazon describes Consider Phlebas: "a kinetic, action-packed adventure on a huge canvas. The book 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."
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Amazon Is Developing a TV Series Based On Iain M. Banks' Sci-Fi Novel 'Consider Phlebas'

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  • by slincolne ( 1111555 ) on Thursday February 22, 2018 @03:25AM (#56168291)
    ... Hollywood has a habit of hacking good stories to garbage to fit their perceived demographics, and the Culture novels are simply AWESOME !

    Fantastic dream however :-)

    • Netflix did a really good job with Altered Carbon.
    • by thomst ( 1640045 ) on Thursday February 22, 2018 @01:06PM (#56170015) Homepage

      slincolne cautioned:

      ... Hollywood has a habit of hacking good stories to garbage to fit their perceived demographics, and the Culture novels are simply AWESOME !

      I think it's important to note that Amazon is not Hollywood. It's equally important, IMnsHO, to note that this project would be a series (which is to say "a miniseries, potentially leading to a string of miniseries, each based on one of Banks' Culture novels").

      I make those points, because Amazon's adaptation of PKD's The Man in the High Castle isn't garbage (it's a little slow getting started, but it's a good-faith effort to translate and expand the novel to a video series format that mostly succeeds), and the miniseries format doesn't require the kinds of compromise in storytelling that trying to cram a full novel into 2 hours or so (purely in order to satisfy theater owners' demands, so they can shuffle more people through their concession stands per day) for a feature film adaptation.

      I first became convinced that the miniseries was the future of video adaptations of major novels when James Clavell's Shogun was broadcast. It's a truly great, extremely faithful adaptation of his massive book that kept me riveted from its opening scene through its finale. it benefitted from an enormous budget (for its time), a first-rate script, and superb casting and direction - and it made a believer in the form out of me.

      In this decade, Game of Thrones has set a standard for fantasy/SF miniseries by which every new offering will and should be measured. For that, we should all be grateful. For instance, Netflix's adaptation of Richard K. Morgan's Altered Carbon - which my wife and I have been watching - has benefitted by that example, in terms of budget, casting, direction, and scriptwriting. It's good, damnit! So is Syfy's adaptation of The Expanse novels.

      Finally, I'm pretty sure that Amazon is well aware of how many fans of Iain M. Banks' work there are, how protective we are of his vision, and the level of expectation they'll have to meet for this adaptation to succeed with that readymade audience. (And it would not greatly surprise me to learn that Jeff Bezos is one of us. After all, he's definitely a space geek - and almost all of us grew up on a steady diet of SF.)

      I've been waiting for TV to take science fiction seriously for a very long time. Babylon 5 raised my hopes considerably - but, various iterations of Star Trek aside, it was pretty much an outlier in the realm of long-form SF storytelling in the TV universe until very recently. That someone is finally tackling The Culture - and that Banks' widow is permitting it to happen - is a long step in the right direction.

      OTOH, Syfy's upcoming version of Stranger in a Strange Land has me really worried. After all, both RAH and Virginal Heinlein have been gone for a good, long while now - and it would be so freakin' easy for the wrong team to fuck that one up ...

      • We already have the shining example of hw screwing up a heinlien story.... Starship troopers.
        If the author or their estate isn't around, hw will do a terrible job. Another example is John Carter.

  • by cerberusss ( 660701 ) on Thursday February 22, 2018 @03:25AM (#56168293) Homepage Journal

    I've read and re-read all of Banks' "Culture" books. It's one of the few where you get to know extremely powerful AIs as characters. They play a real role in the books, sometimes even more so than the meatbags.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Let me know when it comes out on Netflix.

    • by mjwx ( 966435 ) on Thursday February 22, 2018 @09:10AM (#56168963)

      I've read and re-read all of Banks' "Culture" books. It's one of the few where you get to know extremely powerful AIs as characters. They play a real role in the books, sometimes even more so than the meatbags.

      Have you read any of Neil Asher's novels, if you liked that about Banks' novels, you'll enjoy Neil Asher

      • Wow, thanks for the tip! I've been dying to get back into reading but hadn't found anything awesome. Thanks!

  • by iamhassi ( 659463 ) on Thursday February 22, 2018 @04:12AM (#56168355) Journal
    We have enough politics in everyday life without yet another tv show being a thinly veiled metaphor for America's current political system. I'm looking at you Star Trek, who's producers recently said Klingons are a metaphor for trump supporters []
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Of course it will be political. The whole book series was a not-at-all-subtle progressive vs reactionary allegory. It's named the Culture series for heavens sake, how could you miss it?

      • by JaredOfEuropa ( 526365 ) on Thursday February 22, 2018 @05:25AM (#56168491) Journal
        That’s fine, many SF stories have political undertones and are often written as a comment on politics here on Earth. But what GP rightly worries about is whether the writers adapting this material for TV are going to stay true to the material. Or will they twist the political ideas in it into something that suits their own world view (Starship Troopers)? Or perhaps adding some rather unsubtle cues to map the story’s political factions and ideas to those of Earth? Making those connections is best left as an exercise for the viewer.

        Politics belong in SF stories, and the best ones often hold up a mirror to our own world. But Hollywood often turns that mirror into a parody narrated by a preacher.
      • by Cederic ( 9623 )

        I don't think I agree with you. Having sufficiently advanced technology to change gender at will and enhance mental and physical characteristics on the fly by its very nature forces a reevaluation of gender norms, but that doesn't make it progressive.

        Hell, Use of Weapons explores the Culture's need for someone that is pretty fucking clearly not progressive.

        Or are you arguing that the supreme benevolent communist utopia is reactionary?

      • V for Vendetta the book was 'fascists vs anarchists' with neither side being purely good or purely bad. As Alan Moore put it the film 'recasting it as current American neo-conservatism vs. current American liberalism' which he didn't approve of at all : []

        Alan Moore: At the time when I wrote it, it was of course for an English alternative comic magazine around about 1981. Margaret Thatcher had been in power for two or three years. She was facing the first crisis of her, by then, very unpopular government. There were riots all over Britain in places that hadn't seen riots for hundreds of years. There were fascists groups, the National Front, the British National party, who were flexing their muscles and sort of trying to make political capital out of what were fairly depressed and jobless times. It seemed to me that with the kind of Reagan/Thatcher axis that existed across the Atlantic, it looked like Western society was taking somewhat a turn for the worse. There were ugly fascist stains starting to reassert themselves that we might have thought had been eradicated back in the '30s. But they were reasserting themselves with a different spin. They were talking less about annihilating whichever minority they happened to find disfavor with and talking more about free market forces and market choice and all of these other kind of glib terms, which tended to have the same results as an awful lot of the kind of Fascist causes back in the 1930s but with a bit more spin put upon them The friendly face of fascism.

        So V for Vendetta originally came out of the fact I'd been asked to write a strip for David Lloyd to illustrate. We'd originally been talking about doing a 1930's noir strip and Dave had bolted that because I think he'd had enough of digging out '30's reference. We thought maybe we could get the same effect by rather than setting it in the near past, to set it in the near future. So it all evolved from several different sources, but it was playing into the fact that over here in England we've got quite a good tradition of villains and sociopaths as heroes. Like Robin Hood, Guy Fawkes and all the rest of them. And in our fiction, in British children's comics, there were as many sociopathic villains who'd got their own comic strips as there were heroes. Possibly more. The British have always had sympathy with a dashing villain.

        So I decided to use this to political effect by coming up with a projected Fascist state in the near future and setting an anarchist against that. As far I'm concerned, the two poles of politics were not Left Wing or Right Wing. In fact they're just two ways of ordering an industrial society and we're fast moving beyond the industrial societies of the 19th and 20th centuries. It seemed to me the two more absolute extremes were anarchy and fascism. This was one of the things I objected to in the recent film, where it seems to be, from the script that I read, sort of recasting it as current American neo-conservatism vs. current American liberalism. There wasn't a mention of anarchy as far as I could see. The fascism had been completely defanged. I mean, I think that any references to racial purity had been excised, whereas actually, fascists are quite big on racial purity.

        The Beat: Yeah, it does seem to be a common element.

        Moore: It does seem to rather be a badge they wear. Whereas, what I was trying to do was take these two extremes of the human political spectrum and set them against each other in a kind of little moral drama, just to see what works and what happened. I tried to be as fair about it as possible. I mean, yes, politically I'm an anarchist; at the same time I didn't want to stick to just moral blacks and whites. I wanted a number of the fascists I portrayed to be real rounded characters. They've got reasons for what they do. They're not necessarily cartoon Nazis. Some of them believe in what they do, some don't believe in it but are doing it any way for practical reasons. As for the central character of the anarchist, V himself, he is for the first two or three episodes cheerfully going around murdering people, and the audience is loving it. They are really keyed into this traditional drama of a romantic anarchist who is going around murdering all the Nazi bad guys.

        At which point I decided that that wasn't what I wanted to say. I actually don't think it's right to kill people. So I made it very, very morally ambiguous. And the central question is, is this guy right? Or is he mad? What do you, the reader, think about this? Which struck me as a properly anarchist solution. I didn't want to tell people what to think, I just wanted to tell people to think, and consider some of these admittedly extreme little elements, which nevertheless do recur fairly regularly throughout human history. I was very pleased with how it came together. And it was a book that was very, very close to my heart.

        I.e. it's a typical Hollywood thing where they find something, suck its political brains out, replace them with the simplistic political message they want and and claim they've made a faithful adaptation.

        Incidentally if they'

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Give it up; the entire entertainment industry is political now. Celebrities get harassed [] when they *don't* denounce Trump, movie writers get harassed [] when they *don't* have every permutation of gender/race/religious identity represented on-screen...

      With the Chinese loyally turning every flaming turd of a movie ever released into a multi-hundred-million dollar profit and liberals queuing up to throw money and eyeballs at anyone that can reassure them of their smug righteousness on a nightly basis, they have

    • From Wikipedia ( "Iain Banks (16 February 1954 – 9 June 2013) was a Scottish author" and "His first published science fiction book Consider Phlebas was released in 1987 and was the first of several novels of the acclaimed Culture series. " Hardly about a current political system of anywhere, let alone the USA. I mean, The Culture is a Utopia, for a start.
    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      Your own link doesn't say that the Klingons are a metaphore for Trump supporters. It says that the political divide in the US inspired some aspects of the Klingons, which is rather different.

    • You may not have to worry too much about this one being too
      political in the sense of pushing the Culture's ideals. As I recall
      most of the action takes place in a region where the culture
      has little influence.

    • We have enough politics in everyday life without yet another tv show being a thinly veiled metaphor for America's current political system.

      It won't be made political, but, of course, it'll be interpreted as such, and then selectively quoted to support any side.

    • by DRJlaw ( 946416 )

      We have enough politics in everyday life without yet another tv show being a thinly veiled metaphor for America's current political system.

      No we don't.

      "Don't make me think about what I'm doing! And I'm not going to pay any attention anyway, which is why you should ensure that this TV show caters to my will instead of the interests of those already watching..."


  • 80s retro? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Jon Peterson ( 1443 ) <[jon] [at] []> on Thursday February 22, 2018 @04:53AM (#56168429) Homepage

    I re-read Consider Phlebas quite recently, and it shows its age. Sure, it's still a fun space-opera style romp with some nicely imagined scenarios, but the main characters are all a bit 80s action movie. I actually think it would work much better staying true to the era than trying to update it to be a thoughtful subtle modern drama.

    • I hope that by “thoughtful subtle” you don’t mean “dark”. A lot of today’s directors seem to think they are the same. And some directors seem to think “dark” in this case pertains to lighting.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Movies were way more fun in the 80s.

    • by trawg ( 308495 )

      I love love love all the Culture novels but I agree with this. Consider Phlebas was his first Culture novel and it feels like a bit of a mishmash of ideas and action.

      I can see why someone would want to make it a TV series because of the varied action components but I'd much rather see one of the other books made into a series; one with more Culture presence instead of a background force like it is in Phlebas.

      Still - any step that gets more Culture in my face. Hopefully it's the first of many.

  • by angel'o'sphere ( 80593 ) on Thursday February 22, 2018 @07:17AM (#56168679) Journal

    What is the Trade Surplus? Is there any Profit Margin in this?

    • Re:Hu? (Score:5, Funny)

      by itsdapead ( 734413 ) on Thursday February 22, 2018 @07:46AM (#56168713)

      What is the Trade Surplus? Is there any Profit Margin in this?

      I think Its a bit of a Grey Area and the whole enterprise is Experiencing a Significant Gravitas Shortfall.

  • progressive society ends up at war with the Idirans, a deeply religious, warlike race intent on dominating the entire galaxy

    "Progressive"? Uh-oh... Something tells me, the adaptation will lose the book's subtlety and end up being a story of enlightened Democrats fighting the evil RethugliKKKan war-mongers. Despite "Culture" being, if anything, a Libertarian society.

    Bezos, though, may have a better motive than petty politics — the entire "Culture" series describes, how AI, despite displacing (a.k.a. "d

    • You poor little White Supremacist, are you feeling a bit uncomfortable? Feeling insecure because those people are not willing to put up with your assumption of superiority? Unhappy that the Black Panther movie is a phenomenal hit?

      Listen up, fool. Since Nixon's "Southern Strategy" the Republican Party and the Right Wing have been embracing white racism, and by now they are the de facto American White People's Party.

      But things change, and the buzzards are coming home to roost. Your whining is pathetic, as a

    • If you have a post-scarcity economy (whatever that means) where people can just get what they need, without messing up other people, a libertarian society looks a lot better. The problems with it now are that people don't necessarily get what they need, and have to resort to other measures, and that economic activity often steps on other people's rights (pollution, for example).

  • I'm sure part of the reason was that reddit/r/printsf is so enraptured with the Culture series and call it "uplifting". Just couldn't stomach it.

  • Wow...Elon Musk is probably stoked (and jealous as hell) since he loves the Culture novels as well. This series is going to take a TON of money to do that book right. Phlebas is a difficult first novel for the series, mainly because it takes the perspective from outside the culture where the rest of the novels (mostly) take it from the culture's "special circumstances" black ops group. It will be interesting to see how they adapt it.
  • 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

    just make sure it doesn't look anything like, say America fighting radical Islam, right guys, because that'd be totally unacceptable to modern standards of social indoctrination...

    Saying that, its going to look like Americans fighting extremist Islam isn't it.

Where there's a will, there's a relative.