It's easy to convince people to watch Game of Thrones now that it's pretty much the biggest show on the face of the Earth. But if you'll allow me to thumb my suspenders and say "Well, back in my day" in the drawl of an elderly Southern gentleman, I remember a time when the series and the books weren't such an easy sell, even amongst genre fans. The skeptical would ask me what A Song of Ice and Fire was and why they should care. If they were normal people, I'd say that it's a carefully plotted story full of great characters, mind bending intrigue and gnarly action.
If they were science fiction fans, I'd say it was pretty much fantasy Dune.
That's not to say the Game of Thrones is a rip-off of Dune or anything silly like that, but let's look at the hard evidence. Both Frank Herbert's seminal novel and George R.R. Martin's modern opus are about rival families who combat each other in the halls of politics and on the battlefield. Both are unafraid to kill off major characters at the drop of a hat. Both love nothing more than than to delve into the intricacies of their worlds. Both are so well built and so detailed that fans vanish into them, growing obsessed with timelines of events and family trees as if they were historians of these fictional worlds.
So here's what I say to Showtime or AMC or whichever network wants to chase the success of Game of Thrones: bring the planet Arrakis to TV with the same quality and vitality that HBO brought to Westeros and you won't be able to count all of the money you'll bring in.
Of course, Dune has made it to the big screen before, first a baffling David Lynch movie and then as a noble but dry Syfy channel miniseries. The former had imagination but was incomprehensible, while the latter captured the basic beats of the story but lacked pizzazz. In this theoretical scenario, the TV version of Dune will throw away those two altogether and treat the first novel as an entire season (or maybe even two!) of television. There is so much going on in Herbert's world and so many side characters and subplots that could use expansion that a show could use the basic structure of the novel to spin off into its own thing. In future seasons, the show could even ignore the awful non-Herbert novels and just explore the world it has built in completely fresh ways. With Game of Thrones successfully adding more and more nonbook content each season, there's now precedent to do so.
Whoever nabs the television rights for Dune could have a license to print money. Imagine the intrigue of Game of Thrones in a science fiction universe filled with spaceships and sandworms. Imagine season-long storylines where characters go through physical and mental changes that make Jaime Lannister's transformation look tame. Nerd culture would chomp at the bit to watch that. More importantly, HBO has helped bring high fantasy to the masses. More and more people are reading fantasy than ever before thanks to Game of Thrones, making culture on the whole just a little better. There's a generation of sci-fi fans out there ready to discover the work of Frank Herbert. This is how you get them interested. And yep, this is how you get the entire world reading science fiction again.
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