‘Game of Thrones’ Creators Look Skyward for Their New Series

The “Game of Thrones” creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss were finishing off their hit HBO series after an eight-season run and wondering what was next. That was when the Netflix executive Peter Friedlander approached them with a trilogy of science-fiction books by the Chinese novelist Liu Cixin called “Remembrance of Earth’s Past.”

“We knew that it won the Hugo Award, which is a big deal for us since we grew up as nerds,” Benioff said of the literary prize for science fiction. Barack Obama was also on record as a fan.

Benioff and Weiss dipped in and were intrigued by what they found: a sweeping space invasion saga that begins in 1960s China, amid the turmoil of the Cultural Revolution, and involves a superior alien race that has built a rabid cultlike following on Earth. A heady mix of science and skulduggery, featuring investigations both scientific and criminal, it felt utterly unique. “So much content right now feels like, ‘Oh, here’s another forensic show, here’s another legal thriller,’ it just feels like it’s a version of something you’ve seen,” Benioff said. “This universe is a different one.”

Or, as Weiss added, “This is the universe.”

Those novels are now the core of “3 Body Problem,” a new series that Benioff and Weiss created with Alexander Woo (“True Blood”). It premiered on opening night at the South by Southwest Film Festival and arrives Thursday on Netflix. The setting has changed along the way, with most of the action unfolding in London rather than China (although the Cultural Revolution is still a key element), and the characters, most of them young and pretty, now represent several countries. But the central themes remain the same: belief, fear, discovery and an Earth imperiled by superior beings. Among the heroes are the gruff intelligence chief Thomas Wade, played by the “Thrones” veteran Liam Cunningham, and a team of five young, reluctant, Oxford-trained physicists played by John Bradley — another “Thrones” star — Jovan Adepo, Eiza Gonzáles, Jess Hong and Alex Sharp. Can they save the world for their descendants?

In an interview in Austin the day of the SXSW premiere, the series creators discussed life after “Thrones,” their personal ties to “3 Body Problem” and the trick to making physics sexy. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.

The series is quite different from the books, particularly the settings and characters, both of which are a lot less Chinese. How did this come about?

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