Ann Leckie’s Hugo-Winning Ancillary Justice Is Headed For The Small Screen

By David Wharton | 7 years ago

AncillaryHoly crap, have we stumbled into a new golden age for TV science fiction or what? Syfy has high-profile series adaptations of John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War and James S.A. Corey’s The Expanse in the works, as well as a miniseries adaptation of Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End and a half dozen other intriguing projects. A TV version of Frederik Pohl’s Gateway is in development. Fox even has a “Dirty Dozen in deep space” series in development. Now yet another potentially amazing series in the works, and if we keep pinching ourselves like this it’s almost certainly going to leave a bruise.

Author Ann Leckie revealed this week on her blog that her Hugo, Nebula, and Arthur C. Clarke Award-winning debut novel, Ancillary Justice, has been optioned for television by Fabrik and Fox Television Studios. The two entities have previously worked together on USA’s Burn Notice and AMC/Netflix’s The Killing. Fabrik is currently working on the Amazon drama series Bosch, and Fox TV has produced shows such as FX’s excellent The Americans and USA’s White Collar.

It’s worth noting that, in spite of the name “Fox” up there, there’s no reason to assume at this point that a potential Ancillary Justice series would air on (and almost certainly be immediately canceled by) the Fox network. It’s just an option at this point, so there’s no guarantee it will get made at all, but we’re keeping our fingers and toes crossed at all times. And hey, Syfy, this has got your recently redeemed name all over it…

If you haven’t read Ancillary Justice yet, here’s a plot description from Wikipedia:

Ancillary Justice is a space opera set thousands of years in the future, where the primary galactic power is the expansionist Radch empire, which houses fragments of AIs in human bodies known as ancillaries.

The narrative begins some years after the disappearance of a Radch starship, the Justice of Toren, when the sole surviving ancillary (and fragment of the Justice of Toren‘​s consciousness), Breq, encounters a former comrade, Seivarden, on an ice planet. The plot switches between two strands: Breq’s ‘present day’ quest for justice for the Justice of Toren‘​s destruction and several flashback sequences set nineteen years earlier with the Justice of Toren in orbit around the planet of Shis’urna, which is about to be formally brought into the Radchaai empire.

One intriguing element of Ancillary Justice is the way handles gender. The book’s Radchaai don’t recognize it at all, Leckie has the protagonist use female pronouns for every character, and occasionally guess wrong. Obviously, that’s something that’s easy to do on the page — not so much on screen. Leckie addressed that issue, vaguely, in her blog post, seeking to reassure fans:

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.

It’s genuinely thrilling to see so much quality science fiction being ported over to the screen, and we can only hope these various shows live up to their potential. And if Ancillary Justice does go to series, there will be plenty of material to mine. Ancillary Justice is the first book of a trilogy, with Ancillary Sword having hit shelves earlier this month and Ancillary Mercy due at some point down the line.