Ancillary TV? Maybe.

So, several times in the past few months I’ve been asked if there was any chance of Ancillary Justice making it to the movies–or TV. And mostly I’ve replied that, wow, that would be awesome!

Which, actually, was mostly a kind of evasive answer, because stuff was maybe brewing behind the scenes but you don’t talk about that kind of stuff until it’s real. But now it’s real. Ish. And I am told that I can now blog about it!

Basically, Ancillary Justice has been optioned for TV. Now, “optioned” doesn’t necessarily mean that anything is going to actually happen–things get optioned and then never made, quite frequently.

So who has this option, you ask? It’s production company Fabrik and Fox Television Studios. They have previously worked together on THE KILLNG for four seasons on AMC and Netflix, and they started their relationship with BURN NOTICE, which ran for seven Seasons on USA.

Fabrik is currently in production on BOSCH, Amazon’s first ever hour-long drama pilot based on Michael Connelly’s best-selling Harry Bosch book series

Fox TV Studios is the studio behind THE AMERICANS for FX, and WHITE COLLAR, GRACELAND, and COMPLICATIONS at USA, among others.

Now. Like I said, this doesn’t mean there’ll ever actually be any Ancillary Justice on television. But it does mean there could be, and lately it seems like there’s been quite a lot of science fictional television turning up. So, who can say?

I am also aware, of course, that bringing AJ to any sort of screen (not counting your eReader screen, of course!) would be…an interestingly difficult project. I made sure to have a conversation with the folks at Fabrik about my specific concerns–namely, the approach to gender, and the issue of whitewashing (as in, I do not want to see the book whitewashed, I would like to namedrop LeGuin and mention her Earthsea experience here, thank you). I was very pleased with their response. And in fact, if I had been the least bit unhappy with how that conversation came out, I would not be writing this blog post now.

The fact remains that even with all the best intentions in the world, there’s a lot of leeway to really misstep badly in trying to bring AJ to any kind of visual medium. On the other hand, there is quite a lot of potential for a really good team to do something really cool, that may or may not be what I was trying to do with the book, but that is still something new and marvelous. And actually, I think the best adaptations work that way. It’s an exciting thought.

So, um, that’s my news! Remember–option. Option doesn’t mean anything’s actually happening. But the potential is there, and that’s tremendously cool!

21 thoughts on “Ancillary TV? Maybe.

  1. S
    Sonntam says:

    I’m so excited!

    I did not even consider the possibility of Ancillary trilogy to be made into a TV show or a film. But that would certainly be awesome. I think it would work well within the medium, even if many things could be somewhat difficult to understand for the viewer and especially the concept of Justice of Toren as singulary being may have to be explained every once in an episode…

    Still, I’m pretty hyped up. It will be very interesting to see the casting decision, if we get the TV show for real.

  2. Signe says:

    That’s excellent news! I’ve caught myself thinking “this would be such a great movie scene” at times when reading the books (halfway through Sword, whee). And then I started thinking about the challenging things, as you say. To me some of the magic would be lost if we couldn’t see through the eyes and bodies of Justice of Toren as well as we can in the first book – that’s by far my favourite device.

  3. n
    nm says:

    Wow, congratulations! Even if nothing further comes of it, an option is a great compliment and also $.

    I think they’d have to sort of lose Breq as the POV character, though. I mean, how do you show, visually, the viewpoint of a person who doesn’t generally perceive gender, when we who would be watching the show are all so conditioned to perceive gender visually? OTOH, their wanting to take on a challenge like that is is cool.

  4. B
    Bev says:

    Yay! Even if the movie/show never gets made, you got PAID, which means it’s more likely we’ll get more fiction from you in the future, and publishers can see the interest and continue to want your books! This is very, very good news.

    I think anyone who listens to Neil Gaiman or WIlliam Gibson is aware of how byzantine the movie/TV industry is and that an option pretty much only means that the author got paid and no one else gets to make that particular movie right now. (I think I read somewhere that Neuromancer has basically been under option constantly since it was published, and still no movie.)

    Absolutely loved AJ and AS, can’t wait for AM!

  5. S
    Seth Gordon says:

    Congratulations! As others have said above, if nothing else happens, at least you get some money out of the deal.

    The most obvious way that I can think of to handle the gender stuff would be to use an all-female cast, but use costuming and body language to suggest some kind of gender dimorphism (polymorphism?) within each culture depicted—in a way that is just subtle enough that the viewers argue with each other whether such-and-such clothing on such-and-such a planet marks a character as male or female. But someone with actual TV-production experience probably has better ideas.

  6. G
    Ghost Rider 6 says:

    Well, that was certainly worthwhile. “That” being the rereading of Ancillary Justice I finished last night.

    As I was finally about to begin reading Ancillary Sword a few days ago, two things occurred to me that made me think a rereading of AJ was in order. One, it had been over a year since I had read the previous novel; and two, I had read it while sitting with my sister during a months-long hospitalization which, sadly, she did not survive. That, I can guarantee you, is not a situation which allows one to devote the degree of attention to a serious and well-written novel such as AJ deserves.

    I’m very glad I made that decision. I had indeed not picked up on nor fully appreciated some of the plot details, nor all the texture and nuance contained within AJ. I had originally judged AJ to be an outstanding work of fiction, but I have revised that opinion. It is actually a brilliant work. Now, on to what I am sure will be more of the same.

    My sister loved reading as much as I do, and I regret she never had the opportunity to read AJ and AS.

    P.S. I’m not at all surprised the TV rights to AJ have been optioned. As you say, it’s just a first step, but it is a step. And I hope it netted you a reasonable piece of change. Perhaps even enough to have someone come in occasionally and fold laundry for you. 🙂

    1. Ann says:

      Oh, gosh, I’m sorry to hear about your sister! And I’m impressed you managed to read anything under such circumstances–I’ve been in a similar one and have almost no memory of what I tried to read at the time.

      I’m glad it held up on re-reading, though! 😀

  7. A
    A. L. Walton says:

    How neat!

    I can certainly see how some of its conceits will be trickier to pull off in visual media, but those are the sort of creative challenges it’s fun to watch solutions develop for – and like you said, sometimes the most interesting adaptations are those that take the core ideas and run in their own direction with them.

    Glad you had a chance to get in early with the production group and express your unfortunately valid concerns (and, moreover, that they were well-received). Here’s to hoping that this all pans out, and we’ll see an engaging production that lives up to its source material!

  8. M
    Margo-Lea says:

    Well, this is wonderful news indeed. I am so happy for you! (I’ve been saying that a lot lately).

  9. J
    Joe Engel says:

    While I enjoyed Justice (not so much Sword) I simply cannot see how this series could be presented on TV and at the same time maintain any semblance of integrity with the original stories.
    TV production has an almost 100% failure rate when attempting to render a sophisticated SF novel to TV genre. To be frank, the results have been dismal.

    Justice is a complex and sophisticated SF novel. That’s its beauty and strength. I wish TV had the capability to depict such a great story… but it does not.

  10. N
    Neil Ottenstein says:

    Good luck with the option. I can visualize a good adaptation, though, I am not at all certain whether the gender situation could be reliably adapted. Everything else I can see easily translating to a visual medium and being very effective.

  11. G
    Ghost Rider 6 says:

    I see that Ancillary Sword made the list of Opening Round Nominees on Goodreads. And in some mighty fast company, I might add. (For anyone that doesn’t know, you can go there and vote.)

    Nice going, ma’am.

  12. weenie says:

    I’ve only just finished AJ so scenes (and emotions) are still fresh in my mind so the thought of it all possibly being on TV…!

  13. D
    David says:

    Fox has a terrible track record with it’s genre shows though. For some reason it always seems to cancel the best ones.

    Angel, Space Above And Beyond, Firefly, The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Terra Nova. To name a few.

  14. R
    Romance Movies says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you…

  15. Tom says:

    As exciting as this sounds, like everyone else I have my concerns. Outside of the obvious technical difficulties of conveying certain aspects of the book, I’d worry that AS is just a little too grand and a little too complex to be properly paid its dues. I think that a film could potentially be more appropriate, as there are just fewer constraints to the format, but of course the likelihood of that is much less.

    With so many generic and bland TV shows in existence it’d upset me to something as unique and special as AS to be reduced to the same.

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