Monday, December 18, 2006

Potter and Pratchett

I've never really understood Harry Potter. It just seems to me to be so derivative. If you want to read serious fantasy you read Tolkien, or Ursula Le Guin, or Stephen Donaldson. If you want to read satirical fantasy, then you read Pratchett. But JK Rowling just seemed to take a collection of pre-existing ingredients, and serve them up to the right age-group. In this respect, the commercial success of Harry Potter seems to match the commercial success of modern pop-music marketed primarily at pre-teens and young teens. Now, in a Sunday Times interview, (http://www.timesonline.co.uk/newspaper/0,,176-2508051_1,00.html) Terry Pratchett intimates pretty clearly that he considers Rowling to have re-hashed his own fantasy formula:

Did Rowling copy the lot off you? “If my lawyer was here he’d say, ‘Do not open your mouth’,” laughs Pratchett, before making a visible effort to be conciliatory. “Look, if Tolkien hadn’t written The Lord of the Rings I couldn’t have written the Discworld series. It’s how a genre works. Everyone makes their cake from the same ingredients.” Is Rowling’s cake too similar to yours? “I’m not answering that,” he squeaks.

3 comments:

elberry said...

i think Donaldson, Le Guin & Tolkien, as well as other Fantasy writers like Susan Cooper & Katherine Kerr, just write in the genre that fits how they feel life really is - that writing about 9 to 5 office jobs won't capture their lived experience, but orcs & dragons & wotnot will. They don't seem to me to advertise themselves as Fantasy books.

Rowling, i think, set out to write a Fantasy book for a target audience - it's literature with a tag attached, telling you what it is, telling you what to think about it in advance. Things like that tend to be wildly successful; but anything good is usually unable to offer an account of itself, because it is what it is, and can't be summarised without traduction.

Gordon McCabe said...

Nice use of traduction.

elberry said...

i was saving it up. i'm going to try to use 'baleful' at some point.