Tuesday, July 26, 2005


I finished Harry Potter 5 -- Order of the Phoenix -- and have started 6, Half-Blood Prince, hoping to finish before I leave next Tuesday for Glasgow.

The newsgroup I mentioned last time erupted into a frenzy of posts for and against Rowling the Harry Potter series, some defending it as enjoyable light entertainment, others decrying it as a waste of time for seasoned readers of fantasy for whom so many better writers are available. In light of that I might rephrase my earlier comment involving the word 'snob' to something about 'backlash'. I have no quarrel with anyone's taste about any particular writer or book; what troubles me is the deliberate neglect by 'insiders' in the SF/F/H field of those representatives of the fantastic genres who've made it big in the mundane world. That Rowling has no background or interest, apparently, in the genre may be part of it. But it's easy to suspect that, in 50 or 100 years, all that will be remembered in the culture of the time of our fields might well be Star Trek, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and Harry Potter.
I respect the honesty of this post. Those who view themselves as gate keepers for a field are naturally miffed by successful “gate crashers”, like Rowling. But too many objections to the success of Harry Potter have so much of the green-eyed monster about them that it is hard to see what – if any – substance there is to them. This post acknowledges that—despite anyone’s opinions on the matter--it is the age old battle of good vs. evil, as exemplified by Harry Potter and the Lord of the Rings, that has captured the popular imagination in the early 21st century. That’s a good, healthy starting point from which to seriously engage with the important question: Why?
Indeed, why?

One could speculate that these books fill a void in contemporary literature: the acknowledgment that evil does exist and must be confronted.

Especially in the light of 9/11, I find myself asking: where is the literature for ADULTS that reacts to modern terrorism with an unambiguous "This is EVIL" ? Without justifications, spin or "buts".

Harry Potter does --it's only one segment of the series' success, but an important one.

As for the "gatekeepers", they shouldn't worry... the Harry Potter phenomenon will help make fantastic literature overall MORE acceptable -- hence more popular.
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Mark R. Kelly

The opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of Mark R. Kelly, and do not reflect the editorial position of Locus Magazine.
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