Probably my biggest crutch in High School was a timesuck dedication to reading fantasy novels. I've read so many thousands of pages of suspect sword-and-sorcery prose that I can no longer remember whole catalogs of books I've read (and I've probably crippled any chances I have to successfully write any other genre). Some - if not most - were simply awful. I could do without Terry Goodkind's or Robert Jordan's words in my memory, even if Sam Raimi brought Legend of the Seeker to television, or Jordan's wife is finishing the Wheel of Time. Lord of the Rings was classic, sure, but boring? Quite. Don't even get me started about Terry Brooks; I've read maybe fifteen of his books? Around book 12 I realized each one was identical.
I consider myself an expert in bad fantasy writing. That's why I feel comfortable saying that George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire book series transcends the quicksand label of "Fantasy Series", to something greater. Martin manages to brand make-believe worlds with realism without insulting the reader's intelligence. He manages to dial up the intrigue without resorting to the usual "world is going to end/become evil unless" scenario. He creates a world where the so-called bad guys are sympathetic badasses, the so-called good guys are dashing assholes, and the epic plots are driven entirely by the badassness and the assholeness of regular folk.
I can go on and on about why George R. R. Martin's books are worth reading, but I also concede that his 1,000+ page novels are also excessive, that if you aren't an experienced reader of epic series, you'll become bogged down in descriptions and medieval terminology. So I am not trying to convince anybody to read The Game of Thrones. I am, however, going to recommend to everybody HBO's Game of Thrones when it starts airing on April 17, 2011.
HBO was originally pitched the series as "Sopranos in Middle-Earth", which I believe is a fair way to nutshell the story. The major players in a medieval kingdom are using social politics, outright war and behind the scenes power-struggles to control
Personally, I am hoping for something even better. I am hoping for something that crosses the epic-adventure success of Rome with the badass realism of Deadwood. I don't think I could ever hope for anything better, because in all honesty, when it comes to medieval and/or fantasy television and film, has anything ever come close?
Since HBO originally optioned the pilot, to it getting picked up for ten episodes, to the recent announcement of the air date, it's been an exciting couple of years. I'd like to thank both GRRM's website and the invaluable Winter is Coming rumor-mongerer for breaking each awesome news story after another.
When the cast starting to fall into place, shit got real. The best part of the Lord of the Rings films (Sean Bean) signed on as one of the leads. Lena Headey from 300 and The Sarah Connor Chronicles was cast as the sultry Cersei, and perhaps best of all, Peter Dinklage - possibly the only actor in the world capable of the role - was announced as Tyrion. My feelings toward the project went from "Oh please don't fuck this up," to "...omg omg omg!"
Am I getting my hopes up? Yes. Could I be in store for disappointment? Definitely. So?