Amazon's ambitious Iain M. Banks TV show for Prime is canceled

Amazon Prime's adaptation of Iain M. Banks' science-fiction novels has been axed, with "Consider Phlebas" no longer being produced the writer of the project has confirmed. Work on the show was announced back in February 2018, with Dennis Kelly – known for TV series "Utopia" – tapped to translate Banks' Culture into the small screen.

It was a considerable challenge. Banks released "Consider Phlebas" in 1987, beginning a series of novels over the course of two and a half decades that document a post-scarcity utopian society coexisting with artificial intelligence "Minds" that variously operate drones, ships with often esoteric names, or even vast orbital space habitats shaped like rings.

"Consider Phlebas" focuses on the Idirans, once a species with which the Culture was at war, and its clandestine attempts to locate a missing Mind and use its secrets to bring about societal collapse. The Culture has moved beyond religion, but the Idirans believe Minds to be deeply blasphemous. The novel sets the stage for concepts Banks returned to time and time again in his novels, such as the difficulty of predicting how one decision may cause untold implications down the line.

Banks died in 2013, but his Culture series has remained a popular one. News in early 2018 that Amazon Studios would bring it Prime Video was met with a mixture of excitement and apprehension, given the scale of the novels and the potential difficulty in bringing concepts like effectively-omnipotent machine intelligences to TV in a manner that would be understandable to viewers.

Now, more than two years later, it seems we won't find out. The Banks estate apparently pulled the plug, Kelly told Den of Geek, for reasons not entirely clear at this stage. He had already begun working on writing it, but the Estate of Iain Banks – which was Executive Producer on the production – was yet to see any of that.

The current economic climate seems one potential possibility, and it's unclear just how much Amazon Studios had in mind to spend on bringing the vast world of the Culture series to life. Challenges in actually producing a series in the midst of a pandemic – something which has forced other TV shows to drastically think how they film scenes while keeping actors and crew safe – could also be a factor.

Nonetheless, with ten books in the series, it's a disappointing end for what many were calling the "next big thing" in science fiction and fantasy, and even potentially Amazon's "Game of Thrones" should the series have met with the same sort of reception that George R. R. Martin's adaptation received.