Monday, July 23, 2007

What will be the next "Harry Potter?"

Who's asking: Tom Ehrenfeld, Cambridge, MA

Tom was in Harvard Square on Friday night to celebrate the publication of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows with hundreds, even thousands of other fans and parents of fans.

Whatever you think of the series, it's damn cool that a woman who writes books is responsible for this kind of global celebration, and we all have reason to be grateful for anything that brings people together for happy reasons instead of sad or angry ones.

So what, Tom wants to know, will be the next overwhelming cultural phenomenon, the next thing that captures people's imaginations in this way? What's the next Harry Potter?

The answer to this, of course, is that there will never be another Harry Potter -- in the same way that there will never be another Beatles, there will never be another Hula Hoop, there will never be another Star Wars, and there will never be another dot-com boom. The nature of these phenomena is that they can't be predicted and they can't be duplicated.

How can anyone know what will capture people's imaginations? Dozens of agents and publishers turned down Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. I myself would have turned down The Da Vinci Code, and would cut it to the bone if an author brought me that manuscript today.

So no, we'll never see another Harry Potter. Lots of people will try -- are already trying -- and in that process, will subject us to countless mediocre fantasy novels and self-conscious would-be epics. Some of them might even be readable.

But it won't be until the next author or singer or filmmaker has his or her own unique story to tell -- a story we haven't thought of -- that anything will catch our imaginations in the way that J.K. Rowling's world has.


Anonymous said...

"His Dark Materials" by Philip Pullman. It's no Harry Potter, because it's better. And soon to be a major motion picture starring Daniel Craig.

Check it out:

-- Ed

steve said...

Forgive me for being a glutton, but I haven't had my fill yet. I know that all good things must end...blah, blah, blah, but I'm just not ready to be without this story in some form. How about a prequel??? Lets have a look at Lily, James, Snape, etc. as they received their admission letters to Hogworts! PLEASE!!!


AnswerGirl said...

I'm a huge fan of "His Dark Materials" -- particularly the first book, THE GOLDEN COMPASS, which I've read at least three times now -- but you've made my point for me, Ed.

Are they better books than the Potter series? Sure. They're broader in scope, more complex in their characters, and rooted in a deeply-felt theology -- a sort of anti-Narnia -- that I would really, really like to discuss with Pullman one of these days.

That said, will they ever command the sweeping devotion of the Potter novels? No, and that is at least in part by design, because three different people who've read "The Amber Spyglass" (the last book in the trilogy) will have three very different views of what happens at the end of that book. I think Pullman wrote it that way, and it's part of his underlying thesis that groupthink destroys souls.

The ending of "Harry Potter" leaves no room for argument, and that comfort is part of its appeal.

Karen Olson said...

I think what's so compelling about Harry Potter is that it is simply written, with no pretensions, not seeking to be anything than what it is, with characters who are flawed, the classic good against evil story that, yes, does have its share of cliches, but cliches everyone can live with. And JK Rowling is a wonderful storyteller. She has brought us into this world that we don't want to see end.

But it does end. Brilliantly and the only way it could. It's so clear from the ending that it couldn't have been any other way. All the questions are answered, there is nothing left hanging.

Christopher said...

You know what I miss? The Lord of the Rings. That's what I miss.

On a totally different subject, we are in fact living in the future. Hopefully this works.

Anonymous said...

THere were good stories before so something will come up

I was read to (and was also a reader of ) English childrens books, so series such as the Green Knowe series (House at, Stranger at)had magic when I was young. Like the Potter series, good to remember them but also good to look forward to something else


Anonymous said...

nope, never be another "Star Wars"....unless you're one of those who thinks "Harry Potter" is a rip off of "Star Wars."

--Scott P.

AnswerGirl said...

Yeah, but Scott, you could say it's "The Wizard of Oz" just as easily. The quest story is the archetype.

Elements of Eaa said...

I won't claim it will be as good as Harry Potter, but I'm hoping people will at least give it a chance. Not published yet, but coming soon.
Elements of Eaa, Tears of Destiny