Is A Song of Ice and Fire in development at someone not named HBO? Strangely, that may be the case from something we uncovered following yesterday’s post on some recent development updates.
This led us to some digging and and we discovered that Vince Gerardis’s new company Startling Inc. has an official website with a long, long list of various literary works that are in development at various studios, networks, and production companies. As an science fiction and fantasy fan, a lot of the titles are familiar—works by Robert Silverberg, David Eddings, Kim Stanley Robinsion, Larry Niven, Greg Bear, and more are all represented. But Three of these are of special interest to fans of George R.R. Martin: Wild Cards, Sandkings, and something titled A Song of Ice and Fire without HBO explicitly linked to it.
A fan-made ASoIaF logo from artist Ertaç Altınöz
The first thing to note before we get into them is that looking at the Internet Archive, this page was first archived in September of last year, and since then has been modified a few times with titles in development disappearing or appearing, development partners changing or being added, and so on. The last archived version is from December 2020, and there’s one change relevant here. The other thing we’ll note is that we ask people to hold the rancor about the fact that companies are developing these properties—these are projects that Startling Inc. and their partners are working on, and GRRM’s allowing them to do all the heavy-lifting on these things.
Now, lets dig in.
First up in a prominent place on the list is Wild Cards. It was announced in 2018 that it was being developed for Hulu by Universal Cable Productions (UCP) but the last we find that outlet mentioned in George’s posts in 2019 where he noted he had two shows in development there (presumably being the two separate Wild Cards shows that were discussed in 2018). Startling’s page explains why things went quiet: “Wild Cards with UCP & Peacock”. Which means Hulu let the show go, and now NBC’s streaming service Peacock is funding development. When did Hulu drop out and Peacock join up? It’s unclear. In June of last year, GRRM had another post where he spoke of the “relaunch” of the Wild Cards project. Looking at the Internet Archive versions of the page from September, October, and December, it was listed only as “with UCP” as late as December. So it seems the attachment to Peacock is quite new, within the last two months or so.
Next entry in the development slate related to GRRM is, “Sandkings with Netflix”. George mentioned in the previously-linked post that there was feature film development ongoing on “Sandkings”, his award-winning science fiction horror novelette, but Netflix is presently the home for that project. The other two feature film projects George mentions have previously been revealed and appear to still be on-going projects—The Ice Dragon and “In the Lost Lands”—though the former was first announced back in 2018 while the latter has picked up steam yesterday.
Last of the direct GRRM-created projects (besides Roadmarks, which we note was listed as being with HBO on the earliest archive we of the page on September 21st of last year) is ... “A Song of Ice and Fire with The Works”. Suffice it to say, this one is very mysterious. “The Works” does not turn up any obvious production company. After much searching and considering, we offer two theories, one plausible, the other… uh, less so.
Theory one: “The Works” is an as-yet-unknown-to-the-public (and as yet not-registered-in-California) production company that is in fact developing something for HBO. Could the A Song of Ice and Fire title be repurposed for the Robert’s Rebellion pitch that EW’s (and soon-to-be THR’s) James Hibberd reported back in January? Or for something else along those lines? The only thing that makes us concerned about the plausability of this is that if it was a pitch at HBO, shouldn’t it say so, as it does for “The Postman with Playtone at Warner Bros TV”?
Theory two: This one is out there… but there is a company called The Works Entertainment which specializes in live event extravaganzas, with a multitude of box office-smashing shows on Broadway and elsewhere. It has been quite successful at it, as the fact that the world-famous Cirque du Soleil group purchased the company two years ago. Can there be some loophole with the rights to A Song of Ice and Fire, such that HBO didn’t actually bother getting live event rights? We’ve always been told that HBO sewed pretty much all the rights up, other than some legacy rights. And certainly, HBO did something unusual with Game of Thrones, launching the Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience tour as well as supporting the creation of exhibitions and permanent studio tours, so they seem to have had some sort of right to this end.
And yet… a quick search of the US Patents and Trademarks Office doesn’t show any Game of Thrones marks covering live events, specifically; this doesn’t mean HBO doesn’t own those rights, of course, but it doesn’t mean that they do.
Even if HBO didn’t actually cover those narrow rights, isn’t trying to put on a live event broadly adapting or inspired by A Song of Ice and Fire going to risk extraordinary legal wrangling with HBO? And, finally, it feels like perhaps the full name of the company would have been used rather than just “The Works”, looking at some of the other companies noted.
To wrap up, there’s a handful of other titles in the in-development listing which are GRRM or Game of Thrones-adjacent. For example, “More than Human”. On the archive page from December, it was just “with HBO”, but now it says “with Good Banana & HBO”. Good Banana is a production company that is, prominently, associated with House of the Dragon. A quick search at the California Secretary of State’s business registry reveals the production company was registered in 2019 with chief officers Miguel Sapochnik and his wife Alexis Raben. We assume that the title refers to Theodore Sturgeon’s famous novel about the birth of a group mind (or gestalt) which was notably mature and innovative when first published in 1953.
Then there’s something called “Dark Winds at AMC”. Martin’s post from June 2020 noted that he was involved in developing a series based on Tony Hillerman’s detective novels… and it so happens that Hillerman has one novel titled The Dark Wind. Of course, George’s role as a producer is largely limited to HBO (or so we understand), but back in the archives from last year, this title was originally listed as being in development at HBO. Could be coincidence, but we suspect it’s the working title of the Hillerman project George mentioned.