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J. K. Rowling Should Open the Potterverse: A Non-Fan's Plea

By Dan Whitley | Think Pieces | February 23, 2016 |

By Dan Whitley | Think Pieces | February 23, 2016 |

In the opening scenes of one of the early Harry Potter films - my gut says Goblet of Fire - there is a throwaway glimpse given of a man sitting and reading Stephen Hawkings’ A Brief History of Time and stirring his tea without touching his spoon, but also without using a wand. I’m told by authorities on the Potterverse that wandless magic is impressively difficult, to the point of being all but unheard of, and that someone who could do it casually would be awful in the biblical sense. I’m also told that the scene exists as a kind of gag, heightened by the book in his hand.

This scene is the exact thing I had in mind when I called myself a non-fan in the title. Please tilt your pitchforks elsewhere. It is plain to me why the Wizarding World would be engaging and engrossing; I get why it has fans, is what I mean. But we now sit at an impasse, where the legions of Potterheads (or is it just Potheads, full innuendo?) clearly want more stories and characters and just general stuff from the universe, but its creator has no real desire to work within it any longer, and only keeps the rabid dogs of fandom at bay with random scraps tossed out over social media.

So to that end, I implore J. K. Rowling to open the Potterverse to any and all creators, to the service of fans and non-fans alike, thus allowing the Wizarding World to continue to grow forever and anon.

For starters, it’s not like this sort of thing doesn’t have precedent. If you’d prefer a formal arrangement, there’s the model of Lucasarts’ now-defunct-but-not-really Star Wars Extended Universe properties (now called Star Wars Legends, I think). But there are also less formal examples such as the Cthulhu Mythos, which of course grew organically out of Lovecraft’s collaborations with other authors submitting to Weird Tales.

Which model is chosen naturally dictates how that grand motivator called money will come into play. Setting up something like the Lucasarts model could make Rowling more money than you’d find in the Gringotts vaults. But as she is worth so much and gives so much of it away that she stopped being a billionaire a few years back, money is clearly no motivator.

That said, money could serve in a reverse fashion to encourage a more open method such as the Lovecraft model, where the plain fact of Rowling’s wealth and HP’s popularity would mean highly lucrative writing contracts through The Restricted Section (that’s my snappy nickname for the Potterverse EU, which, if the stars align and Rowling should read this, she is perfectly free to use), as well as less incentive on Rowling’s part to exert heavy control over what is and is not published.

Which leads to the issue of control itself. There, of course, needs to be some kind of vetting process for what qualifies as Potterverse canon with all this. I believe such a process should include a disclaimer like the one that Games Workshop’s Black Library imprint uses for their Warhammer fiction. This basically states that anything published by Black Library is officially canon in spite of any contradictions, on the grounds that anything published by BL is a reflection of in-world accounts, which are not always totally accurate.

So if someone in a Restricted Section novel misquotes Dumbledore, it’s not a huge deal. And of course, the fans will always be there to send letters to the editors and curators, alerting them to errors, and allowing said errors to be corrected in later editions.

So now you’re probably asking yourself, why go through all this effort? And I could go on about the beauty of culture and its power to bridge gaps and forge bonds and inform people’s lives. But mostly in this case it’s because the Wizarding World is here to stay, because it is a beautiful piece of work, even to someone like me, who as a teenager dismissed its hero as derivative and unrealistic, and its world as inconsistent and unstructured, and still asserts such beliefs to this day. There’s potential there, is what I mean. There are stories yet untold.

And these tidbits that Rowling tosses out every so often are increasing stale. To an outsider such as myself, they are embarrassing, and my anecdotal evidence abounds that the fans grow less spellbound by the day. Fantastic Beasts is that kind of extra stuff that fans gobble up on the sole grounds that they are starving and hunger is the best spice. In some ways, there’s no real excuse anymore for not opening the Potterverse to other writers and creators. You can’t tell me that the best-selling piece of written fiction of all time wouldn’t make a crackling extended universe.

I’m told Rowling is relatively accepting of fanfic writers as it is, so it’s not like there’s no pool of Restricted Section authors waiting out there. Think of all the journeys those outside voices could take us on. Think of how they could impart much-needed structure on the intricacies of the magic of the Potterverse. Whence does magical potential flow? Mythical beasts are real; how true are stories like the Greek myths? Why are there muggles at all? What was Harry’s grandad up to in the war? Was Rasputin a warlock? (Answer: Goddamn right he was.) Just how old is the Weasley family, really? Do Americans play a bastardized sport derived from the same prototype as quidditch?

And just how was that guy stirring his tea with no wand?