The network is hiring experienced writers to explore different time periods in the history of Westeros and Essos
George R. R. Martin's giant fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire has, since its first book came out in 1991, created an entire world of characters and settings. Now, HBO is looking to expand the onscreen world based on Martin's books by planning four—four—spinoff series by different writers and in collaboration with the author. With the penultimate season of the show set to start on July 16 (only seven episodes this year, folks), the network is rightfully looking for ways to continue its massive revenue machine.
An HBO spokesperson said that they have talked to four writers: Carly Wray, whose writing credits include Mad Men; Brian Helgeland, of Mystic River; Jane Goldman, of X-Men and the Kingsman movies; and Max Borenstein of Kong: Skull Island. The spokesperson said that the network wants to "explore different time periods of George R. R. Martin's vast and rich universe."
With such a wealth of world-building already done by Martin, the spinoffs could be any combination of prequels and sequels, or even alternate stories taking place at the same time as the main show. The spokesperson said that there is no schedule for the spinoffs, that they will let the writers determine the schedule (letting the writer set the deadline: bad decision). So we could see new Game of Thrones stories in 2019 or (probably) later.
What the spinoffs will cover is anybody's guess.
Maybe one will take on the history of the Dothraki, following the warring culture on its conquests of Essos, the clashes between the khalasars, and their sieges on the Free Cities. Or it could follow the childhood and rise to power of Khal Drogo before he marries Daenerys Targaryen.
With all of the money from the main show, HBO could develop a CGI-heavy spinoff about the last time dragons flew over Essos, when House Targaryen used them to unify the Seven Kingdoms three hundred years ago. The Dance of the Dragons civil war between the siblings of House Targaryen would be a climactic finale to the age of dragons, at least until Daenerys hatches the three petrified dragon eggs in the Season 1 finale. They've been underused, anyway: the dragons deserve more attention (and maybe this time they won't be locked in a cave for episodes at a time).
Still miss Ned Stark, even though the story has moved well past revenge and most characters have stopped talking about him at this point? His life is prime subject matter for a spinoff. After all, his death started this whole chaotic civil war. The legacy of the mad king, his relation to the King of the North, the story of his past that instilled in him such morally righteous ideals—Ned left us too soon and it would be nice to see him get some more airtime. Although, if they cast Sean Bean, he'll probably die in the first season, again.
Game of Thrones has won best drama series at the Emmys two years running. It's the most awarded scripted series in the history of the awards and is worth more to HBO than anything else on the network. It also rivals (though not quite surpasses) the size and depth of the universe created by J. R. R. Tolkien for the Lord of the Rings, a world that Tolkien gave mythologies and languages before he even wrote the novels.
HBO will be looking to keep its plans for these shows and the main series top secret. After years of leaks by photographers, hackers and even cast members, it has now taken extra steps to protect unreleased material. They've cut the amount of people who receive scripts. They've required two-factor authentication on all email accounts because the cast isn't allowed to print the scripts. Even rehearsal notes have to be signed out onset and returned before the actor leaves.
While future plans for the show and its spinoffs stay under wraps, fans will have plenty of time to speculate about what the subjects of the spinoffs will be: the Mad King, Uncle Benjen's journeys into the northern forests, that badass White Walker king?
And dragons. Hopefully dragons.