4 'Game of Thrones' Spinoffs (Calling Marlon James!)
Photo Credit: HBO

4 'Game of Thrones' Spinoffs (Calling Marlon James!)


HBO’s single global massive hit (and consistently one of the most pirated TV series every year) is getting 4 possible spin-off series, the network announced today.

HBO says it’s developing 4 different ideas from different writers, expanding the popular fantasy series created by author George R.R. Martin: Max Borenstein (“Kong: Skull Island,” Fox’s “Minority Report”); Jane Goldman (“Kingsman: The Secret Service,” “X-Men: First Class”); Brian Helgeland (“A Knight’s Tale,” “”L.A. Confidential); and Carly Wray (“Mad Men”). Author Martin will also be involved in the development of some of these.

Not surprisingly, HBO isn’t sharing any story details at this time other than to say that each possible spin-off will “explore different time periods of George R. R. Martin’s vast and rich universe.”

“(Executive producers) Dan Weiss and David Benioff continue to work on finishing up the seventh season and are already in the midst of writing and preparing for the eighth and final season,” HBO said in a statement. “We have kept them up to date on our plans and they will be attached, along with George R. R. Martin, as executive producers on all projects. We will support them as they take a much-deserved break from writing about Westeros once the final season is complete.”

“Game of Thrones” is expected to end with its 8th and final season next year, and HBO certainly wasn’t going to let it go entirely, given how much of an international blockbuster it is, and how much it feeds their bottomline. It’s also an awards season champ, setting records for the most Primetime Emmys ever won.

It’s not said that all 4 possible spin-off ideas will become individual series, but HBO says that there are a variety of different options that they are considering; meaning, one could be a regular series; another a limited event series; another a miniseries or even movie. Who knows, maybe they’d consider one for the big screen (HBO is owned by Time Warner, who also own Warner Bros.).

As far as an ETA goes, HBO says “There is no set timetable for these projects… We’ll take as much or as little time as the writers need and, as with all our development, we will evaluate what we have when the scripts are in.”

“Game of Thrones” returns for its seventh season on July 16.

Reading the press statement from HBO, I hoped that one of the writers (or groups of writers) hired to tackle potential “Thrones” spin-offs, would be black (given this blog’s stated interests); or at least a writer of color, who might introduce an idea or a POV that the others (and HBO) may not have considered. Countless *think* pieces have been written about how the immensely popular series has handled race and ethnicity over the seasons, but I won’t rehash (a Google search will lead to all the reading you can handle on the topic). But with that awareness, you’d think that HBO might have considered a writer of color for one of the 4 development slots… a writer of color like Man Booker Prize-winning author Marlon James, who, as we’ve already reported on this blog, is currently writing his own so-called “African ‘Game of Thrones'” as he’s previously described it.

Author Marlon James Named Winner of 2015 Man Booker Prize for "A Brief History of Seven Killings
Author Marlon James Named Winner of 2015 Man Booker Prize for “A Brief History of Seven Killings

If you’re not already familiar with the Jamaican author, now is the time to become familiar, as he’s had a great last couple of years! Most notably, his latest novel (also his 3rd), “A Brief History of Seven Killings,” published by Riverhead Books, was awarded the 2015 prestigious Man Booker Prize for Fiction – a literary prize awarded each year for the best original novel, written in the English language, and published in the UK. The winner of the Man Booker Prize is generally assured a certain amount of international renown and success, which James has been enjoying. This marked the first time that a Jamaican-born author won the prize. According to the BBC: ” Wood said the judges came to a unanimous decision in less than two hours. He praised the book’s ‘many voices’ – it contains more than 75 characters – which ‘went from Jamaican slang to Biblical heights’.”

The novel spans several decades and explores the attempted assassination of Bob Marley in Jamaica in 1976 and its aftermath – through the crack wars in New York City in the 1980s and a changed Jamaica in the 1990s. It’s an *epic* read, and you should pick up a copy for yourself.

In addition to the Man Booker Prize for Fiction win, HBO optioned the novel, and was planning a TV series based on it. This was first announced 2 years ago. James was said to be adapting his novel for the small screen, working closely with screenwriter Eric Roth (“Forrest Gump,” “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” and “Munich”). So he already has a relationship with HBO – a burgeoning one, assuming the adaptation of “A Brief History of Seven Killings” is still in the works.

And on top of that, the author shared in 2015 that for his follow-up to “A Brief History of Seven Killings,” he will “geek the fuck out” as he said in a press interview at the time, and create his own fantasy series, describing what he had in mind as “an African Game of Thrones.”

The author said: “I realized how sick and tired I was of arguing about whether there should be a black hobbit in ‘Lord of the Rings.’ African folklore is just as rich, and just as perverse as that shit. We have witches, we have demons, we have goblins, and mad kings. We have stories of royal succession that would put ‘Wolf Hall’ to shame. We beat the Tudors two times over.”

Indeed! His enthusiasm will hopefully be contagious.

I’d however be remiss if I didn’t add that there have been black writers who’ve written “Game of Thrones”-like fantasy novels, so James certainly won’t be the first. I think he’s just in a position that others who came before him haven’t enjoyed, thanks to his winnings and all the press attention, mainstream awareness and more, that have come along with that. The HBO option of “Seven Killings,” partnering him up with a multiple Oscar nominated/winning writer to develop, certainly put him in rare air.

We learned earlier this year that James’ “African Game of Thrones’ novel, which he’s been writing for the last year+, will be an epic fantasy trilogy to be published by Riverhead Books, and will be titled “The Dark Star Trilogy,” comprising of three novels titled “Black Leopard, Red Wolf”; “Moon Witch, Night Devil”; and “The Boy and the Dark Star.”

As for story, the series will follow three characters — the Tracker, the Moon Witch, and the Boy. According to the official summary, the 3 of them are “locked in a dungeon in the castle of a dying king, awaiting torture and trial for the death of a child. They were three of eight mercenaries (the other 5 die) who had been hired to find the child; the search, expected to take two months, took nine years.” The story of each character, how they ended up where they are, and what happened over those nine years will be at the center of the novels — one perspective per book.

Added James: “The very, very basic plot is this slave trader hires a bunch of mercenaries to track down a kid who may have been kidnapped. But finding him takes nine years, and at the end of it, the kid is dead. And the whole novel is trying to figure out, “How did this happen?” So itself is basically a witness testimony. The thing is, the next novel is somebody else’s eyewitness testimony, and their first remark is, “Everything you read before is not true.”

Per James, the novels will feature “a rich world brimming with African myths and legends, fantastical creatures, and other accouterments of own imagination.”

The setting is fictional of course: “It’s all these imagined spaces, and all these imagined worlds, but still playing on a lot of African culture. But also, sort of recapturing some of the glories of empires — a lot of which the British just kind of burnt to the ground, which is why we don’t talk about them now.”

Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s’ “6-hour documentary series “Africa’s Great Civilizations” which aired on PBS earlier this year, immediately comes to mind and seems timely in light of all the above.

James continued: “Going way back, the touch point for this story would probably be just after the dawn of the Iron Age. It’s a little bit Dark Ages in Europe… sort of after the fall of Rome, but before the rise of Florence, if you want to call it that. But in Africa, we had some of these really glorious empires, like Ghana and Ethiopia and Songhai and Kush. But I didn’t want to write a historical novel. I wanted to go back to being a fantasy geek! I don’t know who I told this, but I said, ‘I just want to geek the hell out of something.’ I want monsters and magical beings! Just in the first 50 pages of this book, this guy’s already gone underwater to the Underworld. He’s running into these mer-creatures who cause huge sickness.”

And there’s more. But you get the gist.

As for when we can expect the novel to hit bookstores, James said he’s eyeing the fall of 2018, so we’ve got over a year to wait. The obvious next question is whether, like his Man Booker Prize-winning previous novel, this fantasy trilogy will also be optioned for either TV or film adaptation.

We can only hope.

Although my initial inquiry still stands: Why HBO didn’t hire a black writer (like Marlon James, who’s already in a “Game of Thrones” frame of mind; although he’s probably too busy working on his trilogy anyway), or some other writer of color, to tackle one of the 4 ideas for spin-off series.

In the meantime, you can pick up James’ “A Brief History of Seven Killings” via Amazon here. The book was as an Amazon “#1 Bestseller.”

Shadow and Act is a website dedicated to cinema, television and web content of Africa and its global Diaspora. With daily news, interviews, in-depth investigations into the audiovisual industry, and more, Shadow and Act promotes content created by and about people of African descent throughout the world.

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