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What’s the next “Game of Thrones”? April 13, 2014

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
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David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, are you listening? Probably not. They’ve got their hands full with a little hit series called “Game of Thrones.” But for all the stations who wish they had HBO’s hit series on their hands, it might be time to take a look at two science-fantasy epics that are way overdue for serialization. Silence Dogood here, and here are my choices:

The Snow Queen and The Summer Queen (Joan D. Vinge, winner of the Hugo Award for best novel for The Snow Queen). The back cover of The Snow Queen sums it up well: “A classic work of speculative fiction, The Snow Queen is Joan D. Vinge’s Hugo Award-winning triumph, a novel that combines the ancient power of legend and myth with modern social issues of ecology, feminism, and basic rights, transforming all through the fabric of a brilliantly realized, far future tapestry.

“The imperious Winter colonists have ruled the planet Tiamat for 150 years, deriving wealth from the slaughter of the gentle sea mers. But soon the galactic stargate will close, isolating Tiamat, and the 150-year reign of the Summer primitives will begin. Unless Arienrhod, the ageless, corrupt Snow Queen, can destroy destiny with an act of genocide. Or unless Moon, a young Summer-tribe sybil, can break a conspiracy that spans space. For Moon is the Snow Queen’s nemesis, the Snow Queen’s lost rival,the Snow Queen’s lost weapon, the Snow Queen’s lost soul. Moon is the Snow Queen’s clone.”

These massive, rich, diverse books, like “Game of Thrones,” portray a struggle between Summer and Winter. In Tiamat’s capital, there’s more than enough sex, drugs, crime, violence, and perversion to rival anything King’s Landing has to offer, with Queen Arienrhod putting Cersei Lannister to shame. Yet the real villains are the high techs on a distant planet, who observe a rigid caste system, and the Hegemonic Assembly, the travelling board of aristocrats who rule what is left of the Old Empire and hoard a dirty little secret—and the rewards it brings them—at the cost of all sentient life.

Spanning worlds and galaxies, yet firmly centered in the drama on Tiamat as Winter’s reign ends, The Snow Queen and The Summer Queen take no shortcuts and have no fairy-tale endings. (The Summer Queen follows the arc of Moon’s rule, with its hardships and heartbreak.) This is no fairy tale. (Admittedly, I was flummoxed by the reference to feminism on the back cover, since both Winters and Summers always choose a queen to rule, until I recalled the fight for recognition of a female police officer who was hindered and belittled by her male colleagues at every turn.) There are even two additional novels, World’s End and Tangled Up in Blue, that explain some of the rich backstory.

Ms. Vinge’s series has its Cersei, its Danaerys, its Jaime. It has its monsters (all human) and opportunists, its aliens, and its very modern blue-collar workers and careerists who are just trying to do their jobs until the cycle turns and they can get off the primitive, corrupt planet where they’ve been sent to further their careers or just try to scrape by. (There’s even a robot who might end up reminding you a lot of Hodor.) A creative team could get many, many seasons out of this series, and it could bring together fans of “Game of Thrones” and “Avatar” to create a huge following.

Golden Witchbreed and Ancient Light (Mary Gentle). These massive novels also are set on a distant world, Orthe, where half the inhabitants are civilized and half are superstitious primitives, much like the Wildlings beyond the Wall and the inhabitants of Westeros in “Game of Thrones.” Into this world comes Lynne Christie, a diplomat from Earth who’s sent to see if Orthe is worth cultivating in Earth’s interests. But what she must learn while dealing with the court’s corruption and subsequently the tribes’ superstitious horror of “the other” is that, whatever they are, these people are not human, and that she is the naive one in this particular Game of Thrones.

As the novels progress, Lynne is sent deeper and deeper into the mystery of the hated Golden Witchbreed, the race that came from afar and enslaved the native population, only to disappear… or so everyone hopes. But what is the truth? Who are the Golden Witchbreed, and why did they come to Orthe in the first place? Why did they allow themselves to die out? Who, ultimately, is Lynne Christie, and where do her loyalties lie, with the corporate conglomerations on Earth and the mission they’ve sent her on or the people she’s come to know on Orthe?

Again, there’s a lot in common here with “Avatar,” and a lot of sex, violence, perversion, betrayal, and the like. (Yet, like Joan Vinge’s novels, these came out years before either “Avatar” or “Game of Thrones.”) Very much like “Game of Thrones,” every time you think you have something figured out, the game changes. It keeps you engaged, and it keeps you guessing. A great choice for a series. Lynne Christie may be a Danaerys, but watch for Lord Varys and Littlefinger, Lord Baelish, and the warlock of Qarth behind every pillar.

What would you choose for the next “Game of Thrones”?

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