George R.R. Martin's 'Wild Cards' Universe Near Multiple-Series Deal at Hulu

A writers room has been opened for two new series that would create a shared universe based on the book series edited by the 'Game of Thrones' creator.
Rich Polk/Getty Images for IMDb
George R.R. Martin

Hulu may have found its Game of Thrones.

The streamer, sources say, is near a deal to secure rights to Wild Cards, the multiple-book series edited by Game of Thrones creator George R.R. Martin. Hulu and Universal Cable Productions reportedly have been looking to bring an adaptation to television in what would be a multiple-series pact.

Sources say Hulu and UCP are on the cusp of opening a writers room that would create a Wild Cards universe for the streamer. 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.

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.

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.

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.

Wild Cards extends Martin's relationship with UCP, for whom he executive produces Syfy's Nightflyers. That drama, based on Martin's novellas, is a co-production between Syfy and Netflix and is set to bow Dec. 2 with what sources say will be an expensive marketing effort.

Wild Cards arrives as building franchises has become increasingly important as the TV industry begins to mirror its film counterparts as intellectual property begins to help brands define themselves. To that end, Netflix and Amazon each spent nine figures to acquire rights to The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings, respectively, with the hope that those can deliver multiple TV series and films and help bring subscribers to their respective platforms in an era of increased competition (and 520-plus scripted originals).

Martin, who has the final season of the HBO juggernaut Game of Thrones due in April and is working on a pilot prequel starring Naomi Watts, is repped by WME, Gerardis and Kleinberg Lange. Miller, whose credits include Syfy and UCP's Tremors and Fox's Backstrom, is with WME.