Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Readership and Authorship // Why I Have Qualms About The Cursed Child

Well do I remember discovering, last year, that there was going to be a new Harry Potter story.

I was so excited! More Harry! Ron! Hermione! Hogwarts! The story we thought was over, continuing! 

This buzz of excitement continued for months and months. As the 31st of July, the release date, approached, it filled me still ... didn't it?

On the 1st of August I got to Waterstones, where Harry Potter decorations covered the shopfront. I went to where the book sat, stacks and stacks of copies, on a table right by the door. Hundreds more copies were lined behind the tills, replenishing the stock as hoards of hungry Potterheads came in brandishing their tenners.

I didn't buy it.

What, what?! There is a new Harry Potter book and I am yet to buy it. There is a new Harry Potter, and I have not ripped it apart with my ravenous jaws.

Image result for ron are you mental gif

You're shocked. I'm shocked. Ron's shocked. We're all shocked. But let me explain to you why I have qualms about The Cursed Child.

The thing I hadn't realised before I picked the book up is that it isn't by JK Rowling. On the cover it says “JK Rowling" in massive letters, but on closer inspection: “Based on a new story idea by JK Rowling. // A new play by Jack Thorne". Wait a minute. Who the frick frack is Jack Thorne?!

I'm not that into fanfiction. There are many reasons for this. The main one is that, as a writer, the thought of someone else writing about my characters makes me almost physically nauseous. They say “the book belongs to the reader", and I totally believe that readers can find things in books that the author may not have known themselves; the reader can keep imagining the word beyond the page. Of course, that's a good thing, because we love stories and want to keep them in our hearts. But there's a difference between treasuring a particular book and thinking about it ... and publishing a book which you're calling “Harry Potter #8". Personally, I don't see how Jack Thorne can make the decisions about what JK Rowling's characters are doing, thinking and saying; how he can call the shots on what's going on in her world.

Of course, we've got to try and see it from JK Rowling's point of view. She loves Harry Potter. She has created a vast, incredible world that has now been in her mind for decades, and it's incredibly hard to let go of that. I would be amazed, perplexed, even aggrieved if I thought that, following Deathly Hallows' publication in 2007, she wasn't still thinking about her characters and her world. She knows them. She has a relationship with her characters -- not of a creator to some sort of AI, but of equals in a journey, discovering a story. Sometimes characters take years to reveal things to you. But should she share this with the fans?

I found an interesting quotation from Maggie Stiefvater on this topic:
“Some people come up to me and ask me to give them material outside the books — for instance, what is Gansey’s favorite ice cream flavor? I never respond to them. Personally, I think it’s unfair — it rewards only some readers and not those who don’t dig through all the archives to find the new little factoids.”
She believes that canon exists only within the books, and the books are the source of all material for the readers. Outside that, all is conjecture. I understand what she means about being “unfair" to the readers ... but personally I'd quite like to know Gansey's favourite ice cream flavour (mint? Or is that too obvious?) and I don't think sharing it would really be a problem. Rowling's equivalent of this is Pottermore, the website she runs that gives you, surprise surprise, more Potter, and when “beta registration" started in 2011 I spent several stressful hours searching for magic quills and all the rest of it to gain one of the coveted million places as a beta. (Which I did. Don't ever say I'm not committed.) I've very much enjoyed the extra information that Rowling published on here (McGonagall's backstory! My heart!) -- because sometimes you can't get everything into the books. Sometimes you can't give all the myriad details of a character's backstory. And why not share that with your fans, when they love those characters?

But is there a difference between backstory and the future? McGonagall's Scottish childhood is one thing; to me, an adult Harry Potter is another. Such details as can be found on Pottermore are complementing the world we already know and love. The Cursed Child is continuing that world, nineteen years later. And now, whenever I read that “all was well" ... can I truly believe it? For The Cursed Child even to have a story -- I don't know what that story is about, but it's there -- there must be conflict. So how can all be well? In the publication of this book, have we been robbed of the closure of the end of the series?

I honestly don't know where I come down on this one. Increasingly I feel that JKR should not be messing her fans around by telling us that all was, in fact, not well. Part of art is knowing where to stop. But of course, I have a soul-deep and unfailing devotion to Rowling and to Potter and part of me is unable to believe that any book published in Harry's name could be other than a good thing. Moreover, I believe that, if I do read The Cursed Child and I don't like it, my love for Potter is too strong to be marred; the perfection of those seven books cannot be broken by what goes on outside their pages. Nonetheless, I'm perturbed, and I don't know whether I want to read The Cursed Child.

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Have you read it? What did you think? Is further information about books canon, or should an author keep it to themselves? (Also, while we're on the topic, what's your favourite HP? Mine's Order of the Phoenix.)

30 comments:

  1. I did read it, and it feels different - a lot of that is because you're basically reading a script which is where Thorne the playwright comes in. Also characters feel different though they are older - it is primarily set in Al's 4th year (so 4 years after that all was well). I really liked reading about the kids - I was actually pretty invested in Scorpius. Some aspects didn't sit as well with me as I've spent decades with these characters, but overall I was happy to be back in the wizarding world. Like you though, I don't really think of this as the 8th book, or canon - I think of it separately - but I do count Pottermore as canon. I still want to see a Marauders story! Either way, I definitely think you should give it a try.

    That's so cool that you were one of the betas, by the way! I remember that one of the my college classmates was actually one too!

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    1. I count Pottermore as canon too, and I think it's a great website (though I've actually not been on in aaaages. I couldn't really be bothered will all the games and collectible objects and that stuff, I just wanted to read the longer bits of info). I was thinking while writing this post that having a play, in which actors portray the characters, is just like a film, and JKR didn't write the screenplays, and they depart from the books ... But then, they're not counted as canon, they're just complementing the stories rather than continuing them, which for me is where the difference lies. However, I'm glad you enjoyed TCC, and you are one of my most trusted Potterhead friends so I may go with your rec!

      IT WAS SO STRESSFUL. Gahh ...

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  2. To be honest, I've never really been into the Harry Potter books, I couldn't get past the first couple of chapters. I don't know whether it was the style or what, but.. yeah. I've watched all the movies, and I can appreciate them, but I don't really consider myself *part of the fandom*

    That being said, I think JK Rowling came up with a great world and great stories and she's a good author. I think she needs to stop messing with that. She needs to stand by her characters and stop catering to the fans. She seems to bow to them whenever they come up with a headcannon, like she put Ron and Hermione as a couple at the end of her books, and then when the fans were like, "No, Harry and Hermione should have been a thing!" she was like, "OOH YOU'RE RIGHT." which bugged me. AND I DON'T KNOW WHY.

    As it is, meh, the Cursed Child sounds like a money play to me. *ducks tomatoes*

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    1. YOU SHOULD TRY AGAIN THO. It really is my solid belief that anyone will love HP if they read them at the right time.

      I agree with you there >.< Personally I'm a definite Romione shipper but I could get on board with Harry/Hermione too, and I'm happy to see things from Harry/Hermione shippers' POVs ... but JKR had to make that choice, the characters made that choice, and even if Harry/Hermione could have been a feasible couple (which I think they were), that's not how they ended up and I don't think she should go back on that. They're all married at the end of 7, they've made their choices, they're not going to change them! Gah.

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  3. I CANNOT AGREE MORE BASICALLY. Also another reason Stiefvater is QUEEN. Eeep. I totally agree that it's okay to have other people write fanfiction. Because it's great that a story inspired or whatever...but I'm so with you...how can someone else know exactly what JK Rowling's characters would do?? The actual thought of someone writing fanfic of my books (like haha as if that'd ever happen BUT I HAVE THOUGHT ABOUT IT) makes me quite anxiously freaked out! A book is just a small slice of pie of a universe and of a character's life. I think it's impossible for someone else to accurately capture it. SO MUCH is inside the author's head still!! Anyway. Heheh. Your post was perfect so I shall not ramble anymore. I haven't read Cursed Child and I've heard the plot is ridiculous anyway, so nopity no. XD I think JK Rowling should start a new series tbh. It probably will never be as loved as HP, but I think all these recent changes and additions are starting to spoil things. :/

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    1. Hahahaha people writing fic about my books is something that has freaked me out also ... it's up there with What If The Cover Is Gross and What If The Film Sucks with Problems That I Should Not Be Worrying About Because I'm Nowhere Near Published ... But yeah. Impossible for someone else to capture.

      She has got an amazing detective series, the Cormoran Strike books, which are published under Robert Galbraith, ASDGLK;ASDG I LOVE THEM SO MUCH AND CAN'T WAIT FOR #4 TO COME OUT. And I kinda don't know why she's not focussing on them (they'RE SO GOOD I CAN'T COPE WITH IT) and putting Harry to bed?? (In terms of publishing, anyway. He'll never be to bed in her heart/mind, and of course we expect that, but ... leave the massive franchise be!)

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  4. I have not. I think canon can exist in multiple versions. This is its own version of canon, including all of the books and maybe the movies. I'm curious toward your thoughts on continuations and twists of old stories in later years. For instance, Sherlock Holmes is public domain, so others have used him as a character. And in comic book movies, much of the content (usually) is based upon the original canon, but some aspects are created by people other than the original authors/illustrators.

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    1. That is an interesting point. Sherlock is, like, the massive guilty secret in my canon-centric, Read The Book First, The Books Are Always Better worldview. I've not read the books ... and yet I love the BBC programme for ever and always ... and I see that this is problematic ... However, I think there is a difference between a modern Sherlock retelling and TCC. It's a new twist on an old story, rather than a continuation of a completed story ... I think? But maybe that doesn't make sense ...

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    2. I think it really depends upon if the soul of the character(s) is/are maintained. I haven't watched either of the two Sherlock dramas running right now, but I have seen the two Robert Downey, Jr. films. I've listened to the first two Holmes novels and several short stories in audiobook. I think there's a change to the characters from the stories to the films, and there are some changes to the soul of the work. Sherlock has been reduced to an archetype to some degree. However, I think enough is maintained. The stories were meant to appeal to a modern (at the time) audience, so it would make sense that the films would be made to appeal to a truly modern audience. I'm not sure how The Cursed Child fits into these considerations.

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    3. Interesting points. I've only seen one of the RDJ films, which I didn't love, but BBC Sherlock is absolutely BRILLIANT. However, I can't comment on how far it maintains the “soul" as you put it. From what I've heard, the character of Sherlock is different in each manifestation, which I guess he must be now if he has become an archetype.

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  5. I still haven't read Harry Potter O.O, but I am not a fan of Fan fiction. I like things to be canon.

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    1. You have a lot of joy coming in your life, promise. But yeah, I'm with you on fic.

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  6. It's tricky, isn't it. I like stories with a vast and well developed universe...but at the same time I don't like it when they branch out into smaller stories that seem to lose the heart and soul of the originals.

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    1. Exactly. The Harry Potter universe is really my favourite thing in the world, but I am very disappointed about TCC, which I don't think I am going to read. Ugh. It's a bit upsetting.

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  7. Welp... it seems like my first comment got eaten by the Blogger Comment Monster again. O_o

    Anyway, this topic is the entire reason why I haven't reviewed The Cursed Child on my blog. Many reviewers have said that this play felt like a fanfiction to them and I agree. This is why, like you, I'm treating the story as a separate entity. It just doesn't have that feeling and style that I've come to love and associate with Harry Potter.

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    1. Ah, it happens to us all!

      I'm sorry to hear that ... I don't actually think I'm going to read it. I think that doing so would only be hurting myself.

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  8. I used to be a Harry Potter fan but I'm not anymore. However, the writing and plot were A+ (or as you British/Scottish people say, A*).

    I agree with you on how this is basically fanfiction. I feel that the series had ended long ago and doesn't need another one!

    When I was into Harry Potter I hated Ronmione or however you spell it. The idea just seems like fanfiction if it weren't written in the book! It just made me nauseous. He was just so mean to her and was very irritating. I felt that they should have just stayed friends. All of them. And Hermione should have stayed with that Quidditch player.

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    1. A****!

      Exactly, that's my big problem! The ending is so perfect, whyyyy tamper with that?! Oh gosh but no I can't at all support the rest of your comment, ROMIONE IS LIFE and whilst I agree that Krum is a babe they are my OTP forever and ever. *ahem* So yeah that's where I stand XD

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  9. I totally and completely get you on this... nonetheless, I couldn't stand waiting any longer and I just had to read it. With as much as an open mind as possible. And you know, I still haven't entirely made up my mind about how I feel about it... All I can say is that is was a joy to see my friends again and develop new favourites. But also the plot is kind of bizarre. Ideally, I would like to see the play in person to get the full effect because in my reading of the bare-bones script I did feel a bit detached...

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    1. I very nearly read it for that exact reason -- the horror of not knowing -- but I have decided that the risk of being disappointed is too high and I'd rather not sully the books' perfection. And I've heard about the time travel, which I am SO not into. (Reasons PoA is my least favourite book!) However, I'm not sure I would pass up the chance to see the play ...

      Thanks for visiting, Aylee! :)

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  10. So I've not read Harry Potter so I've not looked into The Cursed Child at all. Although it is all over insta, all the time. But

    I HAD NO IDEA IT WASN'T EVEN BY ROWLING?! What even is that? If I was a Potter fan, I would be mildly outraged. As a writer, I wouldn't really want other people thinking they can mess around in the heads of my characters (as you like to call yours, your children). That's a little weird. And even as a reader, I still think that's strange. The writing style would be different and it just -- it isn't the same. It feels too. . . franchise-y, and I don't like saying that.

    The whole "all was well" thing though. I disagree. When I read "The End," I don't think "They Lived Happily Ever After." Because if the story really does live onward beyond "the end" SOMETHING is going to happen. You don't live happily ever after. Something happened to the characters. They're undergoing a new "story" or new "chapter" in their lives, if you'll allow me to say. It's just not a chronicled part of their lives. They cannot possibly life perfect "all is well" lives after "The End." I've never believed that characters do. But you know, it's debatable.

    On a mildly unrelated but equally fascinating note, I would agree about Gansey's favorite ice cream flavor. In fact, I'll even elaborate and say I think Gansey's favorite would be mint chocolate chip. Blue's would definitely be Vanilla Bean. Adam would be a plain Chocolate person. Maybe? Ronan? I've not a clue. Maybe Rocky Road? Or Orange Sherbert. Noah though. . . I don't know anymore. I can only guess as far as Gansey and Blue. *looks expectantly at you and hopes you will find this very intellectual convo on TRC's fave ice cream flavors stimulating enough to join the speculation*

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    1. ~cough~ You should ~cough cough~

      EXACTLY, MY CHILDREN. It would really not be the same! And yes. Franchise-y. Exactly. (Did you hear Percy Jackson is now a franchise? And other writers are going to write in Riordan's style about different mythologies? I am distressed.)

      You're right, that's very true! I guess what I'm trying to say is that the stakes can never be as high as they were in HP. HP's villain is, like, the darkest Dark Lord ever, so how can that be repeated? So even though it'd be lovely to see the charries again, we know it's never going to be as bad for them. And in fantasy, high stakes are important. That's not to say the beloved characters' lives won't still be interesting (they will!), but ... do you see what I'm trying to say?

      Blue?! Vanilla?! ABSOLUTELY NO WAY. I personally think vanilla is one of the worst, like, what's even the point? I'd say chocolate for Blue, or something caramel-related. Phish Food? On the other hand, I'm not convinced about Adam. I think he'd want it more elaborate, to show that he can have nice things ... if that makes sense? But maybe plain chocolate. Ronan ... Rocky Road sounds good. (I've never had Rocky Road ice cream, the thought makes me hungry!) Noah ... well. You need to read TRK is all I'm going to say. (But first Blue Lily! Obviously. GET ON WITH IT. *ahem* Not that I'm pushy or anything ...)

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    2. WHAT?! PJO, my love, is become a franchise? Now I am outraged. This cannot be!

      Oh, that does make sense, that the stakes wouldn't be as high because they've all beaten the biggest baddie there is. Yeah. I do see what you're saying. I could see why there wouldn't be as much urgency to the books then. It'd probably have to revolve more around internal conflict and tearing apart character relationship (scary stuff that) to create the same kind of stakes.

      I do agree that vanilla is the worst. But there are people out there who like it (strange and alien though they be). I guess I thought Blue would like vanilla because she likes yogurt. And for some odd and illogical reason I associate people who like vanilla ice cream with people who like yogurt (which I also don't like)? I don't know why, there's no point, so my argument for Blue liking vanilla goes out the window because there's not rationale to back it with. XD BUT now that you mention, I could definitely see her liking some kind of caramel ice cream. Like turtles and cream, or something. As for Adam, I think he wants to like elaborate things, but in truth, he doesn't really and his ice cream flavor would prove that (because ice cream reveals deep things about people's psyche. . . XD yeah, or not). I do need to finish TRC. So much!

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    3. I'm pretty outraged too, tbh. LIKE WHAT.

      Stakes are an interesting one. I was thinking about this earlier today, actually, how LesMisBook is going to be sooo different to the TCATT books, because in them it's like REVOLUTION! SWORDS! EVIL VILLAINS! DEATH DEATH DEATH! Whereas LMB is like ... “I fancy this boy ... does he fancy me? ... Is the school show going to go well?" And SOMEHOW it needs to be as emotionally hard-hitting, exciting and investing as TCATT. ... hahaha I HAVE NO IDEA. But it'll all be ok. (Right?!!??)

      Whaaat yoghurt is the best ... if it's got, like, chocolate in it ... or has been mixed with fruit ... *ahem* But yes, caramel. What the heck flip is turtles and cream?? (No actual turtles involved ... I HOPE.)

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    4. XD I know! That's the odd thing about retellings, I guess. I actually was thinking about it the other day (because of course, we watched a movie of Les Mis which was excellent), if there was going to be some kind of division or "revolution" within the theater group. But no matter. It it WILL be great! The characters are awesome and I think that's what counts most.

      Meh, no yogurt. The one with fruit makes me gag involuntarily. Something about the textual. It's custard with solid chunks it. But to each his own, as they say! :) Okay, so it only occurred to me later that you might not know what turtles and cream ice cream flavor is. XD Sorry! So it's like vanilla ice cream but it has lots of caramel swirls mixed in (so it's awesome). And it has chocolate candies filled with caramel, and for some reason (I've no clue who thought of this but) the chocolate is shaped like turtles. Hence it's called turtles and cream. Sometimes there's chopped pecans too.

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    5. Aww, you were thinking about LesMisBook! Thank you :3 What film did you watch?? The only one I've seen is the 2012 one but I know there are plenty of others ... there's one with Geoffrey Rush as Valjean, I think?

      But yes, I'm counting on the characters! I /could/ just write 70k of sass and sandwiches, no one would mind ...

      I'm laughing at “Something about the textual." Spot the one who's spent too much time thinking about textual analysis recently XD But the ice cream does sound nice. Maybe when I'm next in the States ... !

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    6. I was in fact thinking about it. :) YES! That is the exact one! (*cough* I totally did not google images of Geoffrey Rush as Valjean to be sure. . .) I loved that version.

      I would totally read 70k of sass and sandwiches.

      XD The things that happen when I don't proofread. But when you go on a tremendous blog hop, proofreading becomes irksome (as do textual analysis :P). But yes, when you come to the States, give the ice cream a try!

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    7. Aww, thanks! I'm keen to see that version, I love Geoffrey!

      Same!!?

      We've all been there, friend XD

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  11. I hadn't realized until reading your post (waaaay back when you published it *cough*) that Cursed Child WASN'T written by Rowling. Or that it's a play. Like, what?! I've yet to read HP, but this rankles me a little bit.

    I've never been keen on fan fiction either...reading it or writing it. I feel like I'd need a deep, intimate knowledge of a book/series in order to write something based off it, but who except the author really knows enough to do it properly? I'm busy enough with my own ideas, thanks. XD

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    1. Right?! (But, *ahem*, you should read HP ... not that I've ever said that before ...)

      Exactly! The author writes their story. Other people write ... their own stories. Surely?? Like, it's good that fic gets people writing, but I think it's main function should be as a gateway to their own work.

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Thanks for commenting! :)