In a previous post I wrote about books being adapted into TV shows. I would like to continue with that theme and explore what could be the successors to the hugely popular Game of Thrones by George R R Martin. There is no doubting the success of Game of Thrones with a viewing average of over 17 million and when you consider the merchandise and possible spin offs the popularity will grow and grow.
At the risk of upsetting some readers I wasn’t a huge fan of Game of Thrones. For me, the story lacked the scope I prefer in fantasy and the characters were unlikable. I found myself caring less whether a Stark (or another family member) died or not (sometimes wishing they would just all hurry up and get gruesomely killed). When the producers have to pad the first series with sex and nudity it tells me that they knew the story and characterisation were weak and needed some way of attracting viewers and, hey, sex sells, right? And the political shenanigans were as entertaining as watching politicians arguing it out in Parliament or Congress. But, hey, these are my thoughts and I know I am in the minority. Hats off to the producers and writers because despite my misgivings, they put together what many consider to be a hit show.
But now all that has come to an end. Of course there is talk of prequels and spin offs to Game of Thrones but I wonder what other fantasy writers are worthy of having their work transferred to the small (or in some cases big – I’m thinking of Tolkien here) screen. And speaking of Tolkien, I am aware that the next hit show could be the TV adaption of Lord of the Rings but that remains to be seen. However, I am sure, as we speak, producers are hunting through countless manuscripts and previous works of other popular fantasy novelists in the hope of finding another hit show. Well allow me to give my humble opinions. Of course what follows are what I think to be brilliant books and writers but I genuinely believe they would look ace on the screen. So counting down from five:
5. Shadowmarch by Tad Williams
Apologies in advance if Tad appears more than once in this list. Tad Williams has been a major influence on me for over twenty years and I just adore his works. Why any of his books have never been adapted is beyond me especially when he has been the inspiration for shows that have. Anyway, to Shadowmarch. This is the first in the trilogy but there are four books in the series. It is considered a trilogy as the third was split into two. The other books in the series are Shadowplay, Shadowrise, and Shadowheart. In tone and subject these books are similar to Game of Thrones involving families at war within themselves as outside enemies threaten. But what is different is Tad’s use of characters. From the crippled son Barrick, the Princess Briony, the interesting and often humorous Funderlings, and an enemy that is more akin to Ancient Egyptian culture, each group of characters help broaden the narrative and provide a sweeping tale of intrigue and the struggle to find ones place in a dangerous world. Tad thrives on multi-layer characterisation and storytelling which is certainly what a good TV series needs.
4. Spellsinger by Alan Dean Foster
If it’s irreverence and humour you want from a TV series you cannot go far wrong with the Spellsinger series. This is a tale that spans two worlds, our own and a world where animals walk and talk and engage is what could be considered inappropriate behaviour. This is definitely not one for the kids though my fear would be that some producers may want to ‘kidify’ the material for the sake of attracting a family audience. They would do so at their peril. One of the main characters, Mudge, an otter, is one such vulgar individual. But he is so likeable and though a reluctant participant in heroics (on account that he is often lazy, drunk and sex starved) he soon becomes the companion of the main protagonist Jonathan Thomas Merriweather. Called Jon Tom by the strange inhabitants of this animal world, he has been magically plucked from his world (ours) to help them against a looming threat because a turtle wizard named Clothahump believes Jon Tom to be a wizard. The fact that Clothahump was high on drugs when he plucked Jon Tom from his ordinary life does suggest how irreverent this series really is. But the real kicker is that we discover that Jon Tom is a mean guitarist and when he plays a stringed instrument in this world all kinds of magic happens. This series would be perfect for Netflix who do not tend to shy away from the irreverent and vulgar.
3. Otherland by Tad Williams
Not strictly fantasy but does involve a futuristic and fantastical virtual world. These books, when first written over twenty years ago, were so ahead of their time. Today virtual reality is a common reality (though, as yet, not to the extent these books offer) but Tad Williams struck an important note when he prophesied the addictive and dangerous nature of virtual reality and computer gaming and warns against the organisations behind them. In the series children are going missing inside a virtual world known as Otherland and it takes a South African engineer in virtual technology, whose younger brother has gone missing inside this world, and a collection of characters to delve into Otherland and rescue these lost children. As they go about this they discover the sinister organisation behind Otherland and find others who are caught up in the intrigue. Inside this world the story weaves through other popular narratives we find in classical literature. By the way, as life mirrors fiction, this series has been turned into a popular MMO.
2. The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan
Now if epic fantasy is your thing then The Wheel of Time will not disappoint. This could be a TV series that would run and run so epic in size and structure. Spread over fourteen books this is high end fantasy of the tallest order and given that Jordan had devised a world so rich in magic and superstition, a world of reluctant heroes, and a world where the unexpected can happen, it is perfect for TV. It’s hero is not so much a hero but more of a man (or young boy called Rand) who is forced, by whatever power turns the Wheel of Time, to take on a role that could eventually cause him to go mad or destroy those he loves. How he undertakes this perilous but reluctant journey is what much of the books is about but with him are a league of characters and companions all so rich in their creation. Women are the main wielders of magic and power and if a man is touched by the same power it normally causes his downfall. Unless he is the Dragon Reborn as Rand turns out to be. To turn this into a TV series or a film would be an enormous undertaking and would probably cost a considerable amount (the special effects budget would be immense especially during battle scenes). But given that the late Robert Jordan is treasured among fantasy fans and possibly non fans there would be no doubt that this would be the success producers need. A worthy successor to Game of Thrones.
At the time of writing, my research tells me that Amazon TV are looking to turn this into a one hour pilot. Great minds think alike.
And at number one…
1. The Memory, Sorrow, Thorn series (The Dragonbone Chair) by Tad Williams
I bet you’re not surprised. Yep this is the greatest fantasy fiction ever, in my opinion of course. As is traditional for Tad, this is multi-layered, multi-character fantasy fiction and the scope is vast. Unlikely heroes from humble beginnings, strong princesses, traitorous princes, mad sorcerers, and fairy beings separated into two camps, one evil and one good, the story has a Shakespearean quality to it. It’s like Tad has mixed Midsummer Nights Dream with King Lear, the Tempest with Henry V to produce so wonderful a world, the world of Osten Ard. The religious undertones are familiar with a saviour similar to the crucified Christ but these do not get in the way but, in fact, deepen the character’s resolve to defeat evil. Of course this religious undertone is one of multi-faith as other cultures and peoples join together to defeat the evil fairyfolk. In truth Osten Ard is not so dissimilar to Westeros or Essos with the threat of winter and the dangerous Storm King. I’m told that Tad’s books were the inspiration for George R R Martin. It could not ask for better inspiration but you can see where he has borrowed ideas and themes from Tad. For me this should be the next big TV event. Or better still, Peter Jackson, read Tad’s books, fall in love with them, and make that big epic film to rival Lord of the Rings. Similar to Tad’s other work, Shadowmarch, this series is a trilogy but the last one To Green Angel Tower was split into two. The middle book is called Stone of Farewell.
In all honesty I don’t care whether these get made into TV or not. This has been an excuse for me to talk about some of my favourite books and writers. But if they do, remember, you read it here first.