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HBO’s Game of Thrones prequel is happening, and George R.R. Martin weighed in

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After hearing a number of pitches from writers, one idea is moving forward

night king in game of thrones season 7 HBO

The future of Game of Thrones is officially in the past.

Though Game of Thrones season eight will conclude the television adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire in 2019, it won’t be the end of the franchise: HBO announced last May that several spinoff ideas were in the works from a variety of writers. At the time, Max Borenstein (Kong: Skull Island), Jane Goldman (X-Men: First Class), Brian Helgeland (A Knight’s Tale) and Carly Wray (Mad Men) were all announced as being involved with the development process of a new Thrones series, with Martin overseeing and directly collaborating on several of the pitches (with current showrunners D.B. Weiss and David Benioff handing off the baton and staying on only in executive producer roles).

Update: After the pilot news broke, Martin took to his blog to emphasize some points and clear up confusion. ”Yes, it is true, after more than a year of development, HBO has greenlit the first of the Game of Thrones successor shows that we’ve been working on.”

Read on for more details and additional quotes from Martin.

Like the many theories burning inside the heads of Game of Thrones Reddit maesters, the spinoff announcement made the who/what/where/when gears crank away. Yes, there would be more Thrones — and the possibilities were endless.

Now, we know exactly what HBO and Martin have cooking.

According to Variety, HBO has given a pilot order to a prequel series from Goldman. Set thousands of years before the events of the current Thrones series, this expansion to the universe will chronicle the world’s shift from a golden Age of Heroes into “its darkest hour,” says Variety’s report. “From the horrifying secrets of Westeros’ history to the true origin of the white walkers, the mysteries of the East to the Starks of legend — it’s not the story we think we know.”

Could Goldman’s series follow Bran the Builder and depict the creation of the North’s magical ice wall? Might we see the legend of the Long Night play out into the War for the Dawn? HBO’s carefully worded description hints at the historic story, and previously made promises — the company plans to spend well beyond $50 million per season on the new series — tease an epic episodic.

It’s unclear whether the ideas pitched from the other writers will be incorporated into Goldman’s series or spun off into their own ventures — with season seven finale drawing nearly 16.5 million eyeballs in its first 24 hours of existence, there’s no doubt HBO wants to keep the mega-franchise going for as long as possible. So far, the storylines of those unused scripts remain undisclosed. But Martin left the door open for additional shows to pop up, running parallel to Goldman’s series.

“We started with four, and eventually went to five. One of those has been shelved, I am given to understand, and of course Jane’s pilot is now moving to film. But that does not mean the others are dead. Three more Game of Thrones prequels, set in different periods and featuring different characters and storylines, remain in active development. Everything I am told indicates that we could film at least one more pilot, and maybe more than one, in the years to come. We do have an entire world and tens of thousands of years of history to play with, after all. But this is television, so nothing is certain.”

As far as what might show up in Goldman’s series, Martin has ruled out plot lines mentioned in his Thrones tomes that fans have obsessed over for years. This will not be a secret Dunk and Egg series. We will not see Robert’s Rebellion depicted — this show’s going way back in time.

“This one really puts the PRE in prequel, since it is set not ninety years before Game of Thrones (like Dunk & Egg), or a few hundred years, but rather 10,000 years (well, assuming the oral histories of the First Men are accurate, but there are maesters at the Citadel who insist it has only been half that long),” Martin wrote. “We’re very early in the process, of course, with the pilot order just in, so we don’t have a director yet, or a cast, or a location, or even a title. (My vote would be THE LONG NIGHT, which says it all, but I’d be surprised if that’s where we end up. More likely HBO will want to work the phrase “game of thrones” in there somewhere. We’ll know sooner or later).”

But Goldman should bring a decidedly different flavor to Thrones; with whimsical, dark fantasies like Stardust, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, and The Limehouse Golem under her belt (not to mention her big hits like Kick-Ass and Kingsman), the writer is a Brit through and through, which can’t be said for Weiss and Benioff. Martin, in his blog, heralded her upcoming script for Disney’s live-action The Little Mermaid. Make of that what you will.

What that means for Thrones’ magical lore and medieval riffs is anyone’s guess — but we’ll have to wait until the first Game of Thrones wraps up next year before we can dedicate too much speculative energy to that. Oh, and the show still needs to, you know, actually happens.

“What we have here is a pilot order, not as yet a series order. Though of course we are all hoping that will follow,” Martin wrote, reminding fans that HBO, while keen on reviving its fantasy property soon after the first series ends, has high standards. The company infamously shot an entire pilot to Game of Thrones, only to wind up reworking the script and refilming most of it. Perfectionism is part of the brand.

The wait begins.