Game of Thrones is nearly at its end, but the age of fantasy TV adaptations is likely just beginning.
Game of Thrones introduced audiences to a sprawling fictional landscape with its own geography, economy and politics completely divorced from the real world. The show sucked in many trepidatious viewers who had never picked up a fantasy novel before in their lives, and now studios are hoping to capture that magic in a bottle again.
Fantasy and science fiction adaptations are nothing new on Hollywood, though in the past they have tended to get more play as movies. This was not always a bad thing — see Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings, for instance. It was not always good either — see the 2006 film adaptation of Eragon.
These days, many fantasy adaptations are being developed as series instead. This makes sense for a lot of reasons. To start, epic fantasy tends to include a lot of world-building, exposition and groundwork. It can be nearly impossible to cram all of that into one movie, and even if you do that knowledge is watered down.
In the world of fantasy, readers are rewarded for investing time in a series. The more fluency they bring to a world, the more they are rewarded with new twists and turns in the story itself, rather than trying to remember names or understand how magic works.
Therefore, TV is a good home for fantasy adaptations, as the minds behind Game of Thrones have learned. There are countless others working frantically to try and mimic their success, but there is no telling who will get there first.
Here is a look at some of the most promising fantasy adaptations coming to TV next.
One of the top contenders for the "Next Game of Thrones" title is undoubtedly Who Fears Death, based on the novel by Nnedi Okorafor. The story has been in development at HBO since the fall of 2017, with GoT author George R.R. Martin attached as a co-executive producer. Martin and Okorafor attended the Emmys together in September, where he raved to reporters about the project.
Who Fears Death is set in a post-apocalyptic future version of Sudan. It is set in the midst of an oppressive regime lead by the light-skinned Nuru people, lording over the dark-skinned Okeke. Its protagonist is a girl named Onyesonwu, which translates to "who fears death." Onyesonwu is half Nuru and half Okeke, and in this coming of age story she goes on a quest to defeat her father, a dark sorcerer, with her own magical powers.
There have not been a lot of recent updates on Who Fears Death,and HBO has not officially ordered the series or even a pilot. However, with Martin at the helm, it seems likely that we will be seeing Onyesonwu on-screen sometime soon.
The Stormlight Archive is one of the most ambitious fantasy series of our time, written by prolific author Brandon Sanderson. The series includes three door-stopper novels and one novella, with seven more books planned before it is over.
In 2017, DMG Entertainment acquired the rights to Sanderson's entire catalogue. According to a report by Variety at the time, the company fast-tracked a film adaptation of The Stormlight Archive at the time. However, things have been quiet on that front since then.
The Stormlight Archive might be better served as a series than a movie. Much like Game of Thrones, it follows a massive cast of characters from shifting points of view, jumping around the supercontinent of Roshar to track the disparate wars and plots all at once.
Considering how long it has been since we got an update on the Stormlight Archive adaptation, it does not seem out of the question to hope that it could move forward as a series rather than a movie. At this rate, Sanderson may finish all ten books before the show ever airs.
In terms of timing, Netflix may win the title of "Next Game of Thrones" with its series adaptation of The Witcher. The show is already well underway, with production updates hitting the Internet more and more often.
The Witcher already has a huge following, not just from Andrzej Sapkowski's books but from the video game adaptations. On top of that, the show has an all-star cast, including Man of Steel star Henry Cavill and Vikings' Stephen Wall.
The Witcher is expected to air on Netflix later this year, perhaps filling the void just as Game of Thrones says goodbye for good.
Another promising story trapped in development deadlock is The Broken Earth trilogy by N.K. Jemisin. The series takes place on a fantasy world inhabited by people of different races, species and castes, all of whom believe that the end of their world is at hand. At the center are a group of three women with the power to influence seismic activity beneath the supercontinent they live on.
The Broken Earth was optioned for TV by TNT in 2017, but there has been no news since then. The show was given big TV names to help it along such as Leigh Dana Jackson of Sleepy Hollow, who was set to write the pilot, and Tim Kring of Heroes, who was set to executive produce.
While fans are generally looking to premium networks or streaming services for the next big fantasy adaptation, it would be a surprise if TNT could swoop in and steal the crown. Still, given the source material, they have every chance.
Amazon's TV adaptation of The Dark Tower could check just about every box on a fantasy lover's wish list. The fantasy western followers Roland Deschain, the last of an order of cowboy knights on a transdimensional journey to take revenge on The Man in Black for murdering his father.
The classic Stephen King series was adapted into a film back in 2017 with frankly disastrous results. Still, as fans know the eight-book series has huge potential that has not been realized yet. The series codifies and connects many of the concepts throughout King's different works, and includes references to The Shining, The Talisman and The Stand among many others.
Amazon has been moving fast on production of The Dark Tower. In March they announced that Sam Strike — who starred in SyFy's Nightflyers adaptation — would star as Roland in the show. There is no word on when the series might make it to air, though according to a report by Deadline it has "a blinking green light."
Last year, Netflix acquired the rights to make a TV adaptation of C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia series. The beloved books have already had a successful run on screen once, but fans would likely tune in for another round, especially in series form.
Lewis was a contemporary of The Lord of the Rings author J.R.R. Tolkien, and the two workshopped books together from time to time. The Chronicles of Narnia are known for non-linear storytelling and overt Christian symbolism, with an almost parable-like quality to some stories. That could lend itself well to a series, especially in today's anthology-crazed TV climate.
Netflix announced that its adaptation of the series would include both movies and TV shows, perhaps alternating between the two from book to book. The projects will be executive produced by Mark Gordon, Douglas Gresham and Vincent Seiber.
Want to get caught up on Wheel of Time before the Amazon series? We have a bunch of Robert Jordan‘s books! pic.twitter.com/68EACfHhbV— The Crazy Book Lady (@TheCrazyBookLa2) March 18, 2019
The Wheel of Time series is one of the largest high fantasy epics ever devised. Spanning 17 books in total, including one prequel and two companion books, the story is set in a world that seems at once to be ancient and futuristic, and it is never made clear whether it is set on earth or not.
Obviously, there is more than enough story to fuel an adaptation here, and fans have been waiting a long time for one. Jordan first referenced the possibility of a TV adaptation in 2000, telling CNN reporters that NBC had optioned the first book in the series for a show.
FXX aired an adaptation of part of the story in 2015, though the low-budget project was not well received. The studio ultimately stepped back to re-examine the potential of the series, which has a huge international fan base.
In February of 2018, Sony Pictures Television and Amazon Studios announced that they were co-developing a Wheel of Time series for Amazon Instant Video. The show was officially greenlit in October, though there is no word yet on when we might see it on screen.
There is some massive talent behind The Wheel of Time adaptation, including showrunner Rafe Judkins, who worked on Chuck and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Still, Amazon has not proven itself as a hitmaker yet, so fans are still weary.
Apple TV+ plans to hit the ground running with an adaptation of Isaac Asimov's acclaimed sci-fi fantasy series Foundation, and there is a good chance it will fill the Game of Thrones void. The series deals with some intense hypothetical science and some intergalactic political drama and could undoubtedly fuel a breakout series for the new streaming service.
Foundation has been an influential story for many of today's top scientific minds, including Elon Musk. How it will translate to the screen is another story, though it seems that Apple will give it all the resources it needs. Development began last April, and Apple gave Foundation an official series order in August. Asimov's daughter, Robyn Asimov, is serving as an executive producer.
The show will be a big test for Apple's ambitious new streaming service, which has been in the works for years. Hopefully, Apple can entice viewers into opening a new subscription for the sprawling sci-fi intrigue.
Another Sanderson series, Mistborn, has been on the backburner for even longer than The Stormlight Archive. The series has been around much longer — Sanderson has written two massive trilogies set on the Mistborn world of Scadrial.
In 2017, Deadline reported that screenwriter F. Scott Frazier had been tasked with writing a screnplay for Mistborn: The Final Empire. There has been no news on that project since, but fans are hopeful.
Sanderson's work all takes place in one shared universe known as the Cosmere. On top of that, Mistborn takes place across three different timelines, giving ample opportunity for the movie-series crossover studios are always theorizing about. It could be that Mistborn is the story to finally crack this code.
The story follows magicians known as allomancers, who can swallow certain metals and "burn" them as fuel for powers, including extra-sensory perception and different forms of magnetic telekinesis. The first trilogy takes place in a medieval-style dystopian world where an immortal emperor has ruled for a thousand years, crushing peasants under his thumb and managing the economy with an iron fist.
Sanderson has said that he intends to write the next Mistborn trilogy between Volumes 5 and 7 of The Stormlight Archive, creating even more adaptation potential for the folks at DMG Entertainment.
The Sirens of Titan, by Kurt Vonnegut Jr. Dell Books, 1959. Cover by Richard Powers. pic.twitter.com/rQSOYTuf2h— Pulp Librarian (@PulpLibrarian) November 23, 2017
Kurt Vonnegut's sci-fi classic The Sirens of Titan has been in the works since at least July 2017, when word got out that Rick and Morty co-creator Dan Harmon was writing the script. The project came up again in May of 2018 in a GQ profile of Harmon.
“And there is today’s ordeal, a limited-series adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut’s The Sirens of Titan, which has sat dormant more or less since it was announced in 2017," wrote Sean O'Neal at the time. "Harmon’s racing to produce a script by tonight, before he lets everyone down again. We had activities planned, but Harmon needs to work. Was I just supposed to watch him write, or...?”
Later, O'Neal was present when Harmon got glowing notes on the script from a studio executive, though that was the last real update on the project. The show is being produced by Universal Cable Productions, and no network or outlet has been specified yet.
Sirens of Titan follows a wealthy man in a futuristic version of America, using his influence to try and navigate an interplanetary war between Earth, Mars and Mercury. Ultimately, he finds himself on Titan, a moon of Saturn that scientists believe may be habitable.
Of course, in the world of modern fantasy adaptations Tolkien's Lord of the Rings set the bar, and it makes sense that studios simply want to do the whole thing again. Amazon is currently working on a prequel series to Lord of the Rings, based on Tolkien's additional writing outside of the series, such as The Silmarillion. The show will be set in Middle-Earth, though it will take place thousands of years before Bilbo's harrowing journey.
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne. In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie. pic.twitter.com/hRmGQbOhLj— The Lord of the Rings on Prime (@LOTRonPrime) March 6, 2019
Right now, the show is slated for release in 2021. That in mind, it is remarkable how much press the show has already gotten. Many fantasy readers and authors have turned their noses up at the show, asking Tolkien to give other stories a chance.
Finally, let's not forget that when Game of Thrones ends, fans will not be forced to leave Westeros for good. HBO is currently developing several spinoff series from Game of Thrones, with one already in production. The currently untitled series is set at least 5,000 years before the current storyline in the Age of Heroes.
The show will likely be based on material from Martin's other works outside the main series, primarily the encyclopedia-style book The World of Ice and Fire.
The pilot was written by Jane Goldman, who will serve as showrunner on the series, with Martin joining her as a producer as well. The series cast has also been announced, including many familiar faces from around the world of TV and film.0comments
According to HBO, the show will illuminate "the true origin of the White Walkers," following the "Starks of legend" and the "mysteries of the East." It will not have any familiar characters, sadly, or even any Targaryens, as the dragon-riders of Valyria had not risen to prominence yet. Still, if any show can hold an obsidian candle to Game of Thrones, it is likely to be its direct prequel.
Game of Thrones Season 8 premieres on HBO on Sunday, April 14 at 9 p.m. ET. In the meantime, if you want to be ahead of the next trend, get reading on the books above!