Things are looking promising as I walk into the Game of Thrones-themed trivia night: the people are quiet but their costumes are loud!
Everyone is focused. The bell-sleeves of a Cersei-style dress slide across the table as a competitor writes her first answer with vigour.
I’ve missed the draw for best costume, but I can tell it would have been a close call.
Not long after I sit down, a lone contestant is joined by three latecomer friends, carrying his costume with them. The white plastic bag with green and brown cardboard fashioned into a Starbucks cup is a reference to a split second in Season 8, when a coffee cup was accidentally left in a shot.
He slides it on happily as his friends join him: two women as Daenerys Targaryen and Sansa Stark, and a middle-aged man dressed as Septa Unella, who carries a bell that he rings whenever he doesn’t know an answer.
It’s a chilly Friday night, and about six weeks since the final episode of HBO’s blockbuster Game of Thrones concluded the TV series, throwing fans, both moderate and die-hard enough to cross-dress for a library trivia night, into a crisis of considering what comes next.
“I’m just re-reading the books and waiting for Winds of Winter to come out – one day,” says Rosemarie, a 25-year-old librarian decked out in Stark-style battle leathers and a child’s toy sword.
She is indirectly referencing the age and ill-health of novelist George R. R. Martin, who pens the Game of Thrones books (some fans are concerned he might pass away before he finishes them).
The series on which the show is based, A Song of Ice and Fire, has eight books in total which have been released since 1996. Each is an epic: the latest one – A Dance with Dragons came out in 2011 – all 1,016 pages of it.
But books aren’t enough for devotees of the show, addicted to its gruesome and unexpected plot twists, which is why I’m here tonight at Ashfield Town Hall, in Sydney’s Inner West.
The trivia night is the next best distraction after the Sydney Opera House’s successful run of Thrones! The Musical Parody closed the week before. The Australian run of the stage show followed seasons in the US and the UK, where it received widespread acclaim and follows the premise of a group of friends who re-enact seven seasons of the show for their one friend who has never seen it. The local version also worked in modern issues, with references to Donald Trump’s ‘The Wall’ and even George Pell.
There are also a number of other TV shows, both currently airing and in the works, that aim to draw the Game of Thrones market, filling the void left by the show.
“I’m into a lot of medieval shows. At the moment I’m watching The Spanish Princess, that’s on Stan,” says Alycia, a 26-year-old retail assistant. She looks out at me from under a golden wig, plaited to resemble her favourite character.
“It goes into Catherine of Aragon, how she married Prince Arthur and then King Henry VIII who became the psycho! So that’s what I’m doing.”
In addition to this Amazon Studios has struck a $250 million deal that will allow them to produce at least five seasons of a new Lord of the Rings TV show. Based on the adventures of a young Aragorn, the show will re-open Tolkien’s Middle Earth to fans who have been eagerly waiting for something new since the release of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies in 2014.
The Witcher is another much-anticipated and medieval-esque series expected in the Spring of this year.
Starring Henry Cavill (The Tudors, Superman) as the main character, Geralt of Rivia, The Witcher is based on a book and video game about a monster-hunter with flowing flaxen locks. There’s a princess and a sorceress, and the general vibe that Game of Thrones tragics might yet go crazy for.
Meanwhile, some GoT super-fans have been inspired by the source material to create their own fan fiction pieces. These reimagine the characters and world of Westeros and are published online.
Should’ve just gotten a coalition of fanfic writers to finish this out, honestly.
“I think I’ve tried to steer towards ones that consider the books a lot more,” says Kain, a 23-year-old retail assistant who enjoys Game of Thrones fan fiction.
“There’s a lot out there based around fixing Season 8, or continuing onwards, with dissatisfaction about how it finished being a motivator,” he explains.
“Given how the show ended, I usually associate the book references with something I’m going to enjoy more.”
Game of Thrones first aired in April of 2011, based on the first book in George R. R. Martin’s series, A Song of Ice and Fire. Receiving critical acclaim and a widespread, enthusiastic fan base almost instantly, the show became notorious for killing off fan favourites and breaking hearts worldwide.
This show has played a strange but lovely role in marking time in my life… and that of my friends. I genuinely miss this kind of ‘big event’ television that brings people together to watch, enjoy and discuss at the same time.
However, the final season left fans feeling unsatisfied. Common complaints were that it was rushed, inconsistent with other seasons, and ended with a totally unexpected and somewhat minor character assuming the throne at the end – an anti-climax for which many were unprepared.
“I liked the start of it, but then during the end of it, I didn’t particularly like it that much. It just felt very, very rushed. They could have done more seasons, but I understand the producers just weren’t interested,” Alycia tells me at trivia.
“I felt like if we were given more seasons … they could have stretched it over a period of time and then it would have made more sense,” agrees Rosemarie.
The writing of Season 8 proved such a major point of contention for fans, a petition was launched to have it remade.
Called ‘HBO: Remake Game of Thrones Season 8 with competent writers’, it currently has 1,670,130 signatures.
“Dany’s saving the world one minute and then she’s going crazy in the next minute,” Rosemarie says of the platinum-haired heroine, who pivoted in Season 8 to become a ruthless murderer in her quest for the throne.
“Jon gets reduced to literally, like, three lines – and I felt… what was the point of him being a Targaryen in the end?” says Rosemarie.
She tucks the plastic sword under her arm and wanders out of the library, commenting as she does: “He was, like, just a plot device?”
Together we step into the night, lamenting our disappointments and speaking feverishly of our hopes for whatever book, event or TV series will come along that we can throw ourselves into next.