Hulu is nearing a deal to secure rights to George R. R. Martin‘s anthology book series Wild Cards, for not one but two television series. A writers room has been opened for the two new series that would create a shared universe based on the book series edited by the ‘Game of Thrones’ creator. The folks at Universal Cable Productions have been working with Hulu to finalize the contract, and they’re confident enough that it’s going to happen that they’re setting up a writer’s room for the streamer to help create the foundation for the Wild Cards universe. The two series will be written by Andrew Miller (The Secret Circle), who has an overall deal with UCP. Melinda Snodgrass, Vince Gerardis and Martin are all on board to executive produce what could be multiple Wild Cards series.

George R. R. Martin, author of the fantasy novel series “A Song of Fire and Ice”, upon which “Game of Thrones” is based.

The Wild Cards franchise is a shared universe of anthologies, mosaic novels and stand-alone stories written by a collection of authors and edited by Martin and co-editor Snodgrass. The book series launched after a long-running campaign of the Superworld role-playing game led by Martin and involving the original authors. Martin and Snodgrass developed the framework of the series, including the characters’ abilities and card-based terminology. The first book was published by Bamtam in 1987. To date, 27 books have been released by four publishers, with other new titles in the works. The source material has been adapted as comics, graphic novels and other RPGs.

Set in the present, the book series explores the aftermath of an alien virus released over Manhattan in 1946 that killed 90 percent of those it infected. In the survivors, DNA was altered, creating grotesque physical deformities, except for a tiny percentage who develop superhuman powers instead. Called the Wild Card virus, it has passed down through generations and can go undetected until suddenly activated by a traumatic event, at which point the carrier is either killed, mutated or granted god-like powers — effects that are largely a manifestation of the victim’s emotional state, making them vulnerable to reverence or ridicule on a deeply personal level. Now, after decades of sociological turmoil, having been worshipped, oppressed, exploited and ignored, victims of the virus want to define their own future.

Syfy Films — a joint venture by Syfy Channel and Universal Pictures — acquired screen rights to the franchise in October 2011 and planned to adapt Wild Cards as a feature film, with Snodgrass set to pen the screenplay. Martin said UCP reacquired the rights in August 2016 with plans to adapt the franchise for television. “Development will begin immediately on what we hope will be the first of several interlocking series,” Martin wrote at the time on his blog.

And to think, the entire Wild Cards universe emerged from Martin’s early days as a superheroes RPG gamer. It became a shared universe with lots of material to pull from, and because of the collaborative nature of gaming, the diea didn’t have to rely on Martin himself to produce all the material. There’ll also be no waiting to see how it “ends” because it is really an open ended world.

Wild Cards is another crest in the wave of new franchises being built as the television industry begins mirroring the brand building being done by the major motion picture studios. Martin is already working on a Game of Thrones prequel starring Naomi Watts. This might explain why Martin hasn’t been cranking out novels with the same speed as other science fiction or fantasy authors. Instead, he’s playing the long game and working one level up, where all the licensing and stupifying amounts of licensing money happen.

George R. R. Martin has been a juggernaut the entire time, and had at least some of us fooled.


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