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Winter is coming

Yesterday (Monday 26th) was the scheduled date for filming to start on the rest of Season One of “A Game of Thrones”, HBO’s adaptation of George R R Martin’s epic fantasy series “A Song of Ice and Fire”. To say that I’m excited is an understatement…

On a long walk to the post office yesterday, I was trying to work out why. I mean, I really enjoyed reading the first book, and I’m looking forward to the second, but I have other favourite fantasy series, including one that’s already been adapted for moving pictures – several of the Discworld novels have been thus treated. On the other hand none of my most favourite Discworld books have been adapted yet, which takes the edge off the anticipation. Also, Pratchett is an easy sell with wide audience appeal – adapting his work is almost a no-brainer.

When it comes to more serious fantasy, on the other hand, we have practically nothing. SF TV gets to be dark and gritty, at least at times, but fantasy TV is much more limited. For starters, it’s pretty much all urban fantasy: vampires, werewolves, and other monsters disrupting the lives of modern-day people. Secondly, for a generation brought up on the incomparable Joss Whedon, humour is almost obligatory. The only serious show that springs to mind is “True Blood” – which is of course a show about vampires. From HBO.

“A Game of Thrones” is neither urban nor humorous; it’s more like “The Tudors” or “The Borgias”, a sprawling epic of feuding dynasties set in a brutal medieval-style world. There are monsters out there, but they don’t make much of an appearance in the first book (and therefore the first season).

I think, therefore, that part of my excitement stems from the desire for non-fans of the genre to learn that there’s more to fantasy than vampires and boy wizards. Fantasy may not have the kudos of SF literature, which at its best can be the ultimate vehicle for a thought-provoking story, but it is much wider in range and style than public perception.

It’ll be interesting to see how the series is received by the TV-viewing public. Given HBO’s reputation for making top-quality drama, it has a good chance of success, even if no TV adaptation can ever satisfy the fan-boys. But one thing is now certain.

Winter is coming…