China is in a war against historical fantasy. (Also history in general, but that’s another story).

The first episode of a TV series seen as the Chinese answer to Game of Thrones saw the same fate as the series finale of GoT, which was shelved indefinitely in China hours before airing worldwide last month. The highly-anticipated Novoland: Eagle Flag, the latest show set in the fictional Novoland universe, was also suddenly canceled on Monday just minutes before airing.

Streaming site Tencent Video even offered up the same excuse it gave for the GoT episode: “Media transfer issues.”

Many crying emojis were spilled over the loss on the microblogging platform Weibo.

“Media transfer issues? Is the tape broken or the USB broken?” one Weibo user asked. Others chimed in with sarcastic comments, citing “media transfer issues” as the reason they can’t take national examinations or don’t have a girlfriend.

Not all Weibo users were disappointed with Novoland’s cancellation. Some said the acting was quite bad. (Picture: Novoland: Eagle Flag)

Novoland is based on a series of popular epic fantasy novels with many similarities to A Song of Ice and Fire, the novels behind HBO’s mega-popular GoT. The books tell the story of three fictional continents in an ancient world of mythical races in which kingdoms and tribes wage fierce power struggles. Media has reported that RMB 500 million (more than US$72 million) has already been invested in the show.

As with the ill-fated GoT finale, the reasons for the cancellation are not clear.

This year has seen many period dramas pulled for their “negative influence on society.” Local media has reported that so-called “costume dramas” -- including martial arts, historical, fantasy and imperial palace dramas, among others -- will not be allowed to air at all until the end of June.

The most famous among them was Story of Yanxi Palace, the only Chinese TV show to find significant success outside the country.

Bans on time travel in TV shows have been around since the early 2010s. In 2018, the State Administration of Radio and Television gave special criticism to shows that feature elements of fantasy, even limiting costumed dramas to 15% of prime time slots on national TV stations.

Is this supposed to be the Chinese Jon Snow? (Picture: Novoland: Eagle Flag)

Naturally, this didn’t prevent people from watching dramas in (quasi) historical settings. It only made viewers turn to streaming sites such as iQiyi, Youku and Tencent Video.

The restrictions aim to reinforce a “correct historic view,” according to experts quoted by nationalist state tabloid Global Times. Authorities are apparently worried that teenagers might think that the stories from embellished TV dramas have actually happened. At the same time, foreign TV shows have also been restricted, with some getting pulled altogether.

As a substitute, the government promised in 2017 to produce a flood of new TV dramas over the next five years, which will sing the Communist Party’s praises.

For Novoland fans not looking for a replacement, they may be able to follow in the footsteps of Chinese GoT fans, who ultimately resorted to piracy to watch the finale. Previous Novoland shows have aired outside of China.