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.