Tag Archives: fanfiction

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: A Caution and Plea for Open-Mindedness: SPOILER-FREE

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9781338099133_default_pdpThe majority of the reviews that I’m seeing for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child have been negative or underwhelmed—and I sort of want to echo these same feelings, but every time that I try to do so—well, I can moan along with the best, and I can parcel out what exactly didn’t work for me and why, but I feel badly doing so and here’s why: Can you imagine living up to our expectations? We—me, and the majority of the fans that I’ve seen react negatively—are the ones who never really left Hogwarts. We took J. K. Rowling at her word when she said that Hogwarts would always be there to welcome us home. We wept along with Trelawney when she moaned that Hogwarts was her home—because she was echoing our own feelings as we watched a monster destroy the place we loved—and because she is played by Emma Thompson, and that woman is a masterful actress. If we didn’t write fanfiction, we read it, and we had our favorites, and we had personal theories on every minor detail and pet theories on which we couldn’t be swayed and which we’d defend loudly and ardently to anyone (mine, for example, is that there is corruption at some level within St. Mungo’s, and Alice Longbottom is conscious enough to recognize it and has been trying to tell Neville for years through her bubble gum wrappers; I even got to write and publish the essay on it in a book of scholarly and not-so-scholarly articles by fans).

I think we remained more deeply entrenched in the world and engaged more fully with the characters these past nine years perhaps than has J. K. Rowling.

And J. K. Rowling approved but did not actually pen this script. I have to think that John Tiffany and Jack Thorne are fans themselves—the sort of fans that we are—and that they have pet theories too, ones that they won’t put aside despite evidence within the canon.

J. K. Rowling has never discouraged fanfiction.

In some ways the only thing that this play is truly guilty of is that we expect it to live up to the original canon when it is really a fan piece that happens to have been granted a nod by the author—and of not being our fan piece.

The story is and feels like fanfiction—canonized fanfiction—and because so many fan theories and fan ideas—even the ones we held onto only as jokes—were given the nod, it feels a bit like being pandered to—or stolen from when I think—I hope that J. K. Rowling’s idea was to validate some of our theories—though I wish she’d been more selective, and I wish that she had more carefully read over the work and seen that some of the ideas just don’t jive with the already established seven canon novels. But we’ve had more than nine years to mull over, tinker with, and hone these theories—and some of those ideas have been better handled or better written in other texts than this. And again, after all the effort we put into perfecting these ideas to see canon ideas that don’t match our own is off-putting.

So there’s that. But then, there are problems that I had, even as a fan piece, with plot elements and with the writing itself at times—things that have nothing to do with whether or not it was a good addition to the canon and more to do with whether I like the elements within the text, elements I would judge if this were a standalone and not a new piece in the Harry Potter world. There are already boundless articles online detailing some of the problems that this text has: that the badass Hermione Granger’s success seems so dependent upon the approval of one or any man (as written by Kadeen Griffiths for Bustle in “How Hermione Granger Is Portrayed in ‘Harry Potter & The Cursed Child’ Is Offensive to the Fans and the Character”), perhaps an attempt at inclusion of POC gone awry by mishandling in both Hermione (played by Noma Dumezweni) and Rose Weasley (played by Cherrelle Skeete) and the off-screen inclusion of Padma and Panju Weasley (“What The Hell Is A Panju?” And Other Questions I, A Brown Potterhead, Have For J.K. Rowling” published by Krupa Gohil on Buzzfeed). Without going into why it is difficult to reconcile this text with the canon or why I would have handled certain elements differently, these are perhaps its largest flaws.

That and some of the stage directions forget that they are stage directions. Yes, you could darken a character’s eyes with contacts but what I think the stage direction means is that the character is terrified and that—well, if your actor can widen his pupils, fantastic, but don’t command him to do so; let the actor, act. Moreover, unless the play is being filmed and filmed with an intense zoom lens, such a detail won’t be seen. Some stage directions are written as if they can tell the audience how to react too. Without magic you can’t force a whole audience to react in a certain way, certainly not by telling them to do so. Sometimes the novelist snuck into the play. And what sort of stage direction is “And time stops. And then it turns over, thinks a bit”?  What does that even mean?

Expect another more nitpicky review where I will pick apart the things I liked and disliked, but I wanted to answer all the negativity, and I liked the idea of a spoiler-free and a spoiler-filled review.  (Here is that review.)

I’ve already begun a reread.

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Thorne, Jack.  Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.  Based on a story by J. K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne.  New York: Arthur A. Levine-Scholastic, 2016.

This review is not endorsed by J. K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, John Tiffany, Arthur A. Levine Books, Scholastic, Inc, or anyone involved in the production of the play or script.  It is an independent, honest review by a reader.

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Presents Under the Tree

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A friend sent me this message:

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Happy Christmas.

***

He wore the bow as if it were the most natural thing in the world, as un-self-conscious as he had been when he had stripped in the walled garden to explain to her what to expect on her wedding night.  I could almost ignore it, but the shiny, red curls were just too garish in his dark, untidy hair.

“Cam,” I asked, “what’re you doing here?”

He grinned.  “You wanted me here.”

“Well, yes, of course.  I mean it’s Christmas–”

“So I came.”

“Won’t Amalie mind?”

“She knows I’m here.”

“Of course she does.”

I put on the kettle and cut slices of plum pudding.  We ate while seated crossed legged on the floor, a most unsophisticated banquet for the queen’s consort.

***

He could have chosen no more garish color than green for the bow that perched amid the true red tendrils of his hair.  I think he knew it too.  He wanted to draw attention to the effort that he’d put into his role.  He wore one of those soft, secret smiles as he lifted his hand from the lute strings, letting the last thrums of the song vibrate on the warm air.

“It’s a beautiful song.”  It was the best thing I could have woken up to, an alarm I would pine for daily once he was gone.  He didn’t acknowledge the compliment.  I didn’t expect him to.  Instead I fell back to our script.  “What’ve you brought me?”

I felt a pang of regret as he put the lute down in the case by his feet and reached behind his back to retrieve a bottle that he’d hidden.

“Avennish fruit wine.”

“And what’s in the wine?”

“The smile of a cat,” he said easily, “and Christmas cheer.”

I gave him a cat’s smile.  “I’ll have some of that.”

“What’ve you brought me?”

***

It was an odd noise that had woken me, a sort of huffing, wheezing, groaning.  I stumbled down the hallway.  The Christmas lights had been lit.   I had thought I’d unplugged them the night before.  Must not have.  It was pretty though, with it’s white lights twinkling.

“No!  Christmas trees are no good.”  A man in a blue suit came hurtling past me.  “Bad, bad Christmas tree.”

“What’s so bad about Christmas trees?” I asked the man.  He’d put himself between the tree and I, and with a flourish he’d drawn from his pocket a strange, bulky pen that he pointed like a sword now at the tree.  Its lights flickered.

“Oh lots of bad things about a Christmas tree.  Basically–”  He bent his long, lithe body around.  I had a brief moment to inspect his face before he grabbed my hand and finished, “Run.”

He yanked me out the door, and we were hurtling down the stairs.  We were a block away before I had time to notice the blue curling ribbon in his hair and it wasn’t till much later that I was able to ask him how it had come to be there.  I didn’t understand the answer.  I came to believe that he had used technobabble to cover the embarrassing tale.

***

My own characters are getting a little jealous.

“This is one of your worst ideas yet,” Aidan grumbled, affixing the green bow to his hair yet again.  It had a tendency to slip.

Darryn had an easier time keeping the bow from sliding.  He barely moved his head as he promised, “She’ll like it.”  He said it as if that covered any of the bows’ faults.

“She’d better.”

Before I review Cassandra Clare’s works….

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I have just finished reading Cassandra Clare’s The City of Glass in preparation for reading The City of Fallen Angels (books 3 and 4 of The Mortal Instruments series), which I am already well into.  I fully intend to write reviews for these, but I realized, in trying to visualize those reviews, that it is difficult for me to think objectively about Cassandra Clare and her works; we’ve too much history.  In the hope that you will better be able to evaluate my reviews when I write them, I think it’s fair that I reveal that history:

Cassandra Clare and I go way back to a time when she was known as Claire, not Clare, and she had a flock of fans falling all over Draco Malfoy, not Jace Wayland.

That was the end of middle school and the beginning of high school for me (roughly 2002-2006) and in the midst of the world’s love affair with J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series.  Claire was a fanfiction writer of some renown, having written three novel-length (I don’t exaggerate; the last, which I have thanks to Clare’s kindness, is 1679 PDF pages) fanfictions known as The Draco Trilogy.  My friends and I, all great fans of the Harry Potter series, tore through Claire’s works and praised them highly, at times even wondering if Claire was J. K. Rowling writing under a pseudonym all that her characters really wanted to say and do, but which her original plot line and younger audience, would not allow her to publish through Scholastic.  (I have since realized that Clare’s and J. K. Rowling’s styles are really very dissimilar, but Claire reproduced Rowling’s characters with such accuracy, her plot lines were so intricately and tightly woven and twisted so suddenly that she made us wonder then.)

That was Clare as I knew her in my childhood.  I love those fanfictions.  They influenced my own, which inspired my original novel (W.I.P.), which has influenced my life to this point.  My friends and I even admitted (and in some ways I still believe) that Claire’s series was better than J. K. Rowling’s series.

Clare’s Mortal Instruments series is a direct and obvious descendant of those fanfictions, with some very clear parallels between characters, giving me hope that fanfiction can lead to a successful publishing career; I believe that originally, at least, Clare’s fan base was Claire’s.

Besides that, Clare and I have had some correspondence, and I’ve come to respect her as much as a kind and generous person, willing to give her time and more to fans, as I respect her as an author.  Once she allowed me to reproduce a section of her fanfiction for a guide to writing that was the culmination of my year’s independent study in creative writing.  What’s more, she read my guide and sent me feedback.  Later, after her fanfiction had been removed at the behest of her publishers, Clare sent me a private, temporary link to download the story, ensuring that my sister, previously too young to have been allowed to read the final installment of the series, got the 16th birthday present that my friends and I had once promised her.

That is the background against which I read and will review The Mortal Instruments series, against which my reviews should be read.