It might take creator George R.R. martin a little longer (OK, a lot longer) to finish up his novels but Game of Thrones as a TV juggernaut will be over in just two more seasons. HBO’s fantasy megahit will soon be gone, creating a power vacuum on the small screen. Various studios are already looking for TV obsessions of their own to take the crown when Thrones finally abdicates.
Enter The Wheel of Time.
In the 1990s, two American fantasy novelists emerged as the heirs to Lord of the Rings creator J.R.R. Tolkien. Each weaved a multi-book saga that captivated readers and earned critical praise as the highest expression of the genre. One of them was Martin and his A Song of Ice and Fire series became Game of Thrones. The other was James Oliver Rigney Jr., who wrote The Wheel of Time novels uder the pen name Robert Jordan. In the world of fantasy fiction, Martin and Jordan are the two tallest giants standing side-by-side at the turn of the millennium but only one of them got a TV show. That’s about to change.
Sony Pictures Televison will serve as the production studio for a new Wheel of Time TV series, according to IGN. Rafe Judkins (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Hemlock Grove), a longtime fan of the novels, will develop the show. Attempts to adapt the series have gone on for 20 years. A short pilot even aired on late night TV in 2015,though it was later revealed to be more of an effort to keep the rights than anthing else. This seems to be the strongest indication yet that something big is on the way. With Game of Thrones gone, The Wheel of Time may finally ascend and become a TV superpower.
So, what is The Wheel of Time? Well, Game of Thrones is big but this story is bigger. It’s so big, in fact, that it took two authors 14 books and nearly three decades to complete. Jordan began work on the series in 1984. The first book in what was then supposed to be a six-book project was published in 1990. Jordan’s narrative kept expanding (and expanding). By 1994, the sixth book was published with no end to the series in sight. Shortly after the publicaton of the 11th Wheel of Time novel in 2006, Jordan announced that he had terminal heart disease and that he would work as hard as possible to conclude the saga with the 12th book, even if that book was 2,000 pages long. In 2007, Jordan passed away and fantasy author Brandon Sanderson (Mistobrn) was brought on board to conclude the series. The final volume was pubished in 2013, marking the end of a 10,000-page, four million-word story.
The story itself concerns an eternal battle between good and evil and the young man destined to face The Dark One and save the world. That’s a familiar fantasy narrative, to be sure but things get much more complicated than simple good versus evil. There’s magic but it can only be safely wielded by women thanks to a “taint” that makes male magic users go insane. There’s the ultimate threat of the Dark One, but there are also evil sorcerers who wield terrrible power as his servants, hideous foot soldiers known as Trollocs, an invading force from another land and all manner of other foes. There’s the chosen one but there’s also the band of friends from his village who find that each of them has a destiny that will change the world. There’s a complex magic system and heirarchy, multiple complex cultures, a history spanning thousands of years, parallel dimensions, secret alliances, massive armies and dozens of complex characters. It’s everything you could want from epic fantasy, taken to such a daunting extreme that more than a few readers have been intimidated by its extraordinary length. That length and level of detail, though, also makes it perfect fodder for a fantasy TV saga that could span a decade if it finds a large enough audience.
So if you’re already looking for ways to fill that Westeros-shaped hole in your life following Game of Thrones, get ready. Something big is on the horizon.