Sunday, January 13, 2008

Unofficial Guides and what J.K. Rowling is really afraid of

I am not sure how many of you are following the recent J.K. Rowling vs the Unofficial Guide to Harry potter Universe fight. I have been keeping track of it because of the fact that I am a writer, a scholar and book reviewer (is it a surprise that I am opinionated).

What is going on is that Rowling is claiming that only she has the right to write about the Harry Potter universe, as in she claims that she is the only person that has the right to write a guide book about her fictional universe. And that an unofficial guide to her work will decease the value of her own guide book.

For the record, I own about a half dozen guide books to the Lord of the Rings universe, and am likely to buy a seventh if I run across it. I am not that much into the Harry Potter universe; but if I was, I am quite sure that I would end up with both the official and all the unofficial guide books that were available. It is just the type of person I am.

I am not alone in things like that. I know Trekkers who own every guide book to the Star Trek universe there is, official and otherwise. Same holds true for Star Wars fans. When I was still playing Magic the Gathering, I brought every guide book I ran across (I have no time to play anymore); the same is true of my Role Playing days (Dungeons and Dragons among others).

If you are a fan who buy guide books, odds are that you are going to buy a lot of them. And publishers and film companies know that fan sites, unofficial guides, and word of mouth help sell more copies.

So what is J.K. Rowling really up to? What fear is driving her? Simple, she wants to make sure that she, and only she, ever writes any stories that are set in the Harry Potter universe. She does not want Harry Potter to become another Sherlock Holmes, James Bond, or Captain Kirk. After she dies, she wants to make sure that no one ever revives her characters and writes about them. In other words, she wants her universe to be as unchangable as the Bible.

On one hand, I understand what she wants to accomplish, but I can not consider it good news if she succeeds. She already has the right to make sure that only she can write stories about the Harry Potter universe. If she wants to put out of business fan stories of her universe, she can; and her bottom line will suffer accordingly. She has those rights already.

It is the right that she is trying to seize that worries me. Basically, she is saying that only she has the right to write a guide book and discuss her work. This is bad news for scholars and book reviewers. For years, publishing houses have been seeking a way to make sure that only good reviews get written about their offerings. It is not J.K. Rowling that I fear; it is those who will if she wins, take this victory and use it as a weapon against book reviewers, critics, and scholars hostile to their offerings.

For the record, I write hostile reviews. I just reviewing three Enochian Chess books by Steve Nichols. (Enochian Chess (Book One): Foundations ; Enochian Chess (Book Two): Practical ; Enochian Chess (Book Three): Alpha et Omega.) And I am quite sure that Nichols would love to roast me over warm coals for how I treated his books. But he can't. If I feel that a book is not necessarily the world's best on a subject, I am allowed to say so. And I did.

I am a writer, book reviewer, scholar and a Golden Dawn member. All of these depend upon literature being able to be discussed, reviewed, and argued about. Without the freedom to do so, we are all in big trouble. Remember in 1984, the first thing they did was get rid of the writers.

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