From “Lord of the Rings” to “Game of Thrones,” blockbuster fantasy franchises have long been disproportionately white. Award-winning author Nnedi Okorafor is just one of the writers of color changing that by creating rich, diverse literary fantasy ― and the change is coming to prestige TV as well.
On Monday, Okorafor announced that her acclaimed novel Who Fears Death, a post-apocalyptic epic set in a future Sudan, has been optioned by HBO and is in the early stages of development. George R.R. Martin, the author whose saga “A Song of Ice and Fire” inspired HBO’s hit “Game of Thrones,” has been attached to the project as an executive producer.
In a Facebook post, the author added, “Note: This did not happen overnight. It’s been nearly 4 years coming.”
A first-generation Nigerian American, Okorafor drew from her own experiences visiting Nigeria and learning about her family’s Igbo culture, as well as contemporary accounts of genocidal violence in Sudan, to build a fantasy futuristic world for her saga, which was published in 2010.
Who Fears Death is set in a future Sudan, where the dark-skinned Okeke are subject to violent oppression at the hands of the light-skinned Nuru. After an Okeke woman is attacked by a Nuru general in a genocidal rape, she gives birth to a daughter she names Onyesonwu. An outcast because of her parentage, Onyesonwu is also set apart by her burgeoning magical powers ― and her origins and abilities have marked her out for a terrifying and momentous destiny.
Between HBO’s resources, George R.R. Martin’s blood’n’guts bonafides and, most importantly, Okorafor’s brilliant, textured source material, this sounds like a fantasy blockbuster to watch out for.