Game of Thrones has become a global phenomenon, with a legion of devoted fans. Originating from George R. R. Martin’s series of novels A Song of Ice and Fire, it has spurned a hit TV show, a thriving fan culture, and multiple video games. It’s already incredibly successful, but where will the franchise go from here?
A Song of Ice and Fire
Author George R.R. Martin was already a veteran of science fiction writing, having been a screenwriter for the cult favourite The Twilight Zone, and created several short stories. In 1991, he started working on his defining project – A Song of Ice and Fire – which combined the fantasy genre with historical undertones, politics, and social commentary.
The first book of the series was published in 1996, titled A Game of Thrones. Five further titles followed, and the last two in the instalment are hotly anticipated by fans.
Set in the fantasy world of Westeros, the trilogy chronicles the power struggle between several dynasties for the Iron Throne. Martin has admitted that much of the inspiration came from history; for example, the conflict between the Lannisters and the Starks is based on the War of the Roses. Similarly, the society of Westeros echoes medieval Europe, whilst the ‘wildings’ beyond the wall in the North alludes to Hadrian’s wall and the ancient Picts in Britain.
Martin created a fantasy universe of breath-taking complexity and detail and the trilogy quickly gained a cult following. Overall it has sold 60 million copies, and been translated into dozens of languages.
The Game of Thrones TV Series
The books made their transition to the silver screen in 2007, after being picked up by writers D. B. Weiss and David Benioff. They pitched the idea to HBO, and the series was commissioned.
A pilot was finally produced in 2009, and in 2011 the first season was premiered. The show quickly became an international sensation. By the time the sixth season was being aired, 9.3 million people were tuning in for every episode in America. This, on top of millions more worldwide. In fact, Game of Thrones holds the dubious accolade of being the most pirated TV series of all time.
The series was praised for its clever dialogue, excellent acting and stunning cinematography. The overall production values were amongst the best of any show on TV, helped by the stunning scenery of Northern Ireland and Croatia, where most of the series is filmed. With a cast of 267, and a budget of over $10m per episode, Game of Thrones has a scope on par with a blockbuster movie.
The writers went to extraordinary lengths to make the show as authentic and absorbing as possible. For example, they hired linguists to create grammatically coherent languages for the Dothraki and Valyrian.
Whilst the first season closely followed the plot of Martin’s original writing, later series started to deviate. As a result, the TV series took on a unique creative character of its own, whilst staying true to the spirit of Martin’s vision.
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Praise and controversy
Critical acclaim was fast coming. The show has been nominated for 26 Emmys so far. It has also been credited with helping bring the fantasy genre into the mainstream, and fundamentally shaping modern pop culture.
It hasn’t been without criticism, though. Violence and sex are central to the show’s plot. Few shows on TV have as many nude scenes, drawing accusations of sensationalism and exploitation of women. Torture and gore are also present in spades, meaning the series definitely isn’t for the squeamish.
Nevertheless, Game of Thrones inspires a fanatical following amongst its admirers. It has become something of a cosplay favourite. Game of Thrones paraphernalia is everywhere to be seen, and HBO even sold its replica Iron Throne for $30,000.
More hardcore fans have started learning the Dothraki and Valerian languages. There has even been a wave of parents naming their children after characters from the show, such as Arya and Khaleesi.
This is not to mention the various games based on the series, fan fiction, and even possibly a future Hollywood movie.
With the final instalments of the series due to come out in the next couple of years, expect the juggernaut to grow. It’s sure to be the subject of office watercooler conversation everywhere!
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