With Game of Thrones coming to television this weekend, many more people will soon know the joy of vicarious masochism that is George R.R. Martin's storytelling. But Martin's not the only creator who abuses his characters for your perverse enjoyment.
What are the other series that are A) awesome and B) cruel to their characters? We asked on io9's Facebook page. Here are the 10 others you mentioned who come close to Martin-level nastiness. (With absolutely no spoilers, beyond vague mentions.)
"No one maims, hurts and kills people he's made me love more than George R.R. Martin," says Shane Terpstra. But in no particular order, here are some others who come close.
1) Dresden Files.
The story of Chicago's only wizard detective is one long road of misery. "Harry just can't get a break," says Chris Harkins. "The guy writes him like he hates him," adds Christopher Umbreit.
This space opera may look cute at first due to the Jim Henson puppets, but it's actually packed with raw suffering. Says Kathy Simmons, "Main character deaths, plus all the torments that poor Crichton went through! One of my favorite shows of all time. Still wish it could come back somehow."
3) Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
She's the chosen one — chosen for pain, that is. "Every time things got nice, everything went to hell. Sometimes literally," says Raquel Garrido. Adds Mike Hill, "Life is quite often the 'Big Bad,'" on Buffy.
The monster-hunting Winchester brothers barely ever seem to catch a break. Making disastrous deals with demons is a family tradition, everyone they befriend tends to die on them, and any hints of a stable family life beyond each other are constantly snatched away.
5) Neon Genesis Evangelion.
Teenagers being forced to pilot giant mecha is pretty much a guaranteed formula for angst, but then add in a high body count and the fact that the adults have some pretty horrible secrets, and it gets way worse. "Neon Genesis Evangelion cannot be topped for character suffering," says Lana Rogers.
6) The Walking Dead (comics.)
You might expect that life after the zombie apocalypse would be rough, but writer Robert Kirkman manages to bring the industrial strength pain. "I've always said that If I meet the man I'll want him to punch me in the stomach to simulate the feeling I get reading what happens to characters in his comics, because no one does it better than him," says Justin Green.
7) The Caine novels by Matthew Stover.
It's a post-apocalyptic Earth, and Overworld, a parallel world that resembles Tolkien's Middle Earth has been discovered. So Caine gets sent to Overworld to become a medieval assassin for the amusement of the masses. Says Joseph Lucas, "From the start of Heroes Die Caine is pitted against tremendous odds and even though the comes out ahead it's at a great personal cost."
8) The Dark Tower
Not surprisingly, it's another post-apocalyptic world, and life is a big disaster zone. Roland faces one dire situation after another, along with what the Washington Post called "moments of desolating tragedy."
9) True Blood.
This show isn't just all dirt sex and weird orgies. There's a lot of heartbreak and misery for Sookie and friends, who are constantly in emotional turmoil. In this world, any time you love someone, they either betray you or get horribly destroyed. Not to mention all the actual physical torture.
10) Being Human (U.K.)
At first blush, this show about a vampire, a werewolf and a ghost sharing an apartment seems like the set up for a wacky sitcom — but it's actually a brutal ride through the land of pain. Everybody has a past that's constantly threatening to catch up with them, and there are constant reminders that a monster in human form can never really have a normal life.