POPULARITY: George R.R. Martin's award-winning book series A Song of Ice and Fire (which begins with A Game of Thrones and has spread through five novels so far) is one of the best-selling fantasy sagas in the last decade, selling more than 15 million books worldwide, having been translated into more than 40 languages. Emmy-winning HBO series based on books is third-most-watched series in the history of the channel, averaging 10.3 million total viewers per episode; most pirated show of 2012.
FACEBOOK FOLLOWERS: 4.2 million
TWITTER FOLLOWERS: 465,000
FAN NICKNAME: There isn't one umbrella moniker, but various fans dub themselves the Brotherhood Without Banners, the Bookwalkers (viewers of the TV series who have read the books), the Unsullied (viewers of the TV series who have not read the books), and the GRRuMblers (fans who wish George R.R. Martin would write faster).
MAIN HANGOUTS: Westeros.org and WinterIsComing.net for news, forums, and roleplay; ToweroftheHand.com, for rereading the books; Podcastoficeandfire.com for podcasts.
AVERAGE DEMOGRAPHIC: Despite a nerd-alert review by the New York Times that said it only appeals to “Dungeons & Dragons types,” aficionados of both the books and the TV series extend well beyond the fantasy crowd. The show reaches a broad audience, and the reader-viewer combo fans tend to be literate, creative, and patient — because they have to be: The last book was more than 1,000 pages long, after a wait of six years. Who knows how long it will be until book six, The Winds of Winter, arrives?
DEVOTIONAL PROFILE: Star Wars may have wider anthropological permanence, more cottage industries, and a wider age range of fans. Twilight may induce more screams and tears. And Harry Potter may be a new rite of passage for children everywhere. But Game of Thrones has the most devoted fanbase of all because of the sheer surging might and immediacy of its readers (and viewers’) obsessiveness over a story that is still in the midst of unfolding. The main arcs behind the other giant franchises have been told, even if fans are still immersed in the movie follow-throughs or ancillary side mythologies. But GoT fans feel like they are in the midst of the adventure; they are as anxious for the coming of winter as the series’ characters. It has driven some to extremes; Martin partly avoids online GoT forums because if he does bother to blog or respond to fan queries, people assume he's wasting valuable time that could be spent finishing the next book. This came to a head as six years dragged on between the fourth and fifth installment, which finally came out last year; fans were driven mad over the wait, leading to an impassioned defense of Martin by Neil Gaiman (which spawned the catchprase “George R.R. Martin is not your bitch”). These are people who adore the saga so much that they often anticipatorily resent its creator for the possibility that it might not end satisfyingly. (Or end at all.) They have too much invested in this saga to implicitly trust its very creator. To satiate and perhaps calm these nervous followers, Martin has been reading sample chapters aloud from Winds of Winter.
Fans who don't read the books, however, are unconcerned with these developments; their primary issue is one of spoilage, because readers have a tendency to dissect events before HBO even has a chance to shoot them (the Red Wedding is not really a wedding — discuss). But the two factions have brokered an uneasy peace and learned to trade theories (Who is Jon Snow's mother? Was Ned Stark even his father?). Genealogy matters in GoT, which is why who has sex with whom is a big deal and the source of much fanfic. (Fans love to imagine Jon Snow getting some action, though Martin is famously opposed to fan fiction.) To keep themselves warm as winter is coming (and it is coming, eventually!), GoT fans also keep busy expanding and modernizing the medieval world of Westeros, beyond the usual fan art and mash-ups, as inventive as those may be. The most devoted get tattoos of the house sigils. They buy replica swords and engage in on- and off-line role-playing games. They figure out the recipes for the food, write cookbooks, and serve up whole feasts of Dothraki goat, pork pies, and lemon cakes. Speaking of Dothraki, some fans actually learn to speak Dothraki, which became an entire constructed language à la Klingon from Star Trek or Quenya from Tolkien — but so far, no Valyrian beyond a few phrases. In short, though the Most Devoted Fans may be dying for a sixth book, they definitely keep themselves busy without it.