Editorial License - by Ernest Lilley (Editor) and Sharon Archer (Associate Editor - SFRevu)
Harry Potter and the Hugo
In a year when the best Dramatic Presentation for a Hugo was a Chinese Martial arts flick with essentially one overused special effect and a lineage to what perhaps should have been the award winner last year (The Matrix), perhaps one shouldn't have been surprised that J.K.Rowling won the Hugo for best novel.
Dismayed, but not surprised.
Personally, I'd like the award given to work of outstanding quality rather than overwhelming popularity.
Oh dear. I fear I'm a curmudgeon. Worse, I'm a muggle, and probably the very worst sort at that.
If Harry Potter wasn't a worldwide sensation bringing kids into the readers fold, would anyone really care about him? If you look at his story from the critical perspective of serious fantasy, are the rules of his universe consistent, or do they pop up arbitrarily to move the story along? Do the characters expand or reinforce stereotypes?
Don't think that I want all our books to come from writers who've established themselves within the genre. Some of our best authors were slow to be recognized by the SF and Fantasy community, but it was the quality of their work that turned us on in the end.
Aye, a muggle me, and proud of it.
On the other hand, umpteen billion children can't all be wrong...can they? No, on some level, they can't. They are in fact, the pudding that the proof rests in.
So we've given Harry his due this issue, with a movie review from Amy Harlib, a look back at the books by Catherine McMullen, who at age thirteen is nearly in the target market, and whose dad, Sean McMullen, is the author of some fabulous stories of his own.
Besides that, Sharon Archer, SFRevu's Associate Editor, has some thoughts about the young wizard as well...and you know...she makes a lot of sense.
But I'm still a curmudgeon.
Harry Potter and the Pleased Parent
Here it is November, 2001 and the Harry Potter frenzy is reaching a peak. Magazine articles, newspaper spots, TV ads and TV specials, Internet banners, merchandise tie-ins, etc., etc., etc.
It’s been building all summer and early fall in anticipation of the release on November 16th of the first Harry Potter movie, The Sorcerer’s Stone which will be seen in 131 countries, translated into 40 different languages. There are many websites devoted to Harry. Yahoo lists 767 clubs . Amazon offers in its Harry Potter Store not only the original novels but also the plethora of related reading material and merchandise now available including calendars, posters, board and video games, action figures, bed linens, glow-in-the-dark Band-Aides, toothpaste, CDs and the list goes on and on.
So…what’s it all about? Why has this nerdy, wizard-in-training taken the entire world by storm?
When Harry Potter and Goblet of Fire was announced as the winner of the Hugo Award for Best Novel this year at the Millennium Worldcon in Philadelphia I heard a gasp of surprise from all around me. Even I was astonished at first. Surprised, but not displeased. The more I considered it, the more appropriate I found the decision to be.
Taking nothing away from the quality or worthiness of the other nominees it seems to me to be entirely consistent with the import and tone of this year’s convention that a novel directed to the young reader should be so honored. Programming tracks pondered the issues of reaching and teaching the young, of nurturing the young reader, of fostering the next generation of Science Fiction and Fantasy fans. Everywhere there was concern that fandom is growing older and grayer and that young blood is hard to come by. But as anyone who has tried to encourage children to read knows, to engage their minds you must first engage their hearts. You need to fire their imaginations to capture their interest and hold it.
Jo Rawlings has done this and done it better than anyone else in recent history. Not just in her native British Isles but all across the globe. It has been estimated that in the United States fully 2/3 of all children have read Harry Potter. There is something about Harry that appeals to the child in all of us. He doesn’t know it all, but he strives to learn. He faces odds that are sometimes hard to beat, but comes out triumphant. He overcomes family and circumstance and validates the importance of effort and friendship. And he traverses the often rough and bumpy road we must all travel in life – the one that takes us from dependence to independence.
I was introduced several years ago to a then 11-year-old Harry Potter by another 11-year-old boy. A non-reader. A child who for the first time in his life came home from school and asked his mother to buy him a book. You better believe that this avid-reader mom was overjoyed to comply with his request. Not that it was that easy to do. Word had already gotten out about Harry and other delighted parents were also scouring bookstores for copies of the Sorcerer’s Stone. Once acquired, we devoured it … and the next one ….and the one after that too. Amid all the hoopla engendered by its release, we pre-ordered and eagerly waited for The Goblet of Fire. We were not disappointed – the seemingly endless wait, vindicated.
One of the things parents who love to read want most to give to their children is the pleasure and joy of reading - to experience the total involvement, the total immersion, and the delicious anticipation that a good book can engender.
J.K. Rowling has helped me give my child this precious endowment. This wonderful experience. And more than that she has given me the gift of being able to share this experience with my child. To spend wonder-filled hours with him, laughing at the antics of Ron’s brothers, pondering over clues, speculating as to who or what or where, despising the despicable, admiring the admirable, observing as Harry grows and learns about life and decisions and the dangers of assumptions and presumptions.
To J.K. Rowlings I say thank you for that time - for being there just at the juncture in his life when he still could share this with me - just before all the attendant pressures of being a new teenager entered his life and AOL and IMS and online friends took over his spare time.
Shortly after the latest book came out we attended a Halloween costume party where all guests - young and old alike where required to dress as their favorite character from a Harry Potter book. I was Mrs.Weasley, as my red-headed son was clearly designed to be Ron. The house was decorated as Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and upon entering guests drew from the sorting hat a colored scarf that determined their allegiance – to Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw or Slytherin. Later we convened outside and for one enchanted night middle-aged SF fans and their children ran laughing and shouting in the moonlight, riding their brooms in search of the golden snitch. Forgetting our aches and pains, the worries of our everyday mundane lives, reveling only in the excitement and fun of the moment we suspended our disbelief and willfully and gleefully entered the world of fantasy. This is the magic of Harry Potter.