On Reading J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter Books

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I read J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books over the winter break. All of them: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (1997), Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (1998), Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (1999), Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2000), Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2003), Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2005), and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (2007). I couldn’t stop there. Then, I read Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2001), Quidditch Through the Ages (2002), and of course, The Tales of Beedle the Bard (2008). Luckily, there were more stories to be read in the Pottermore Presents series: Short Stories from Hogwarts of Heroism, Hardship, and Dangerous Hobbies (2016), Short Stories from Hogwarts of Power, Politics, and Pesky Poltergeists (2016), and Hogwarts: An Incomplete and Unreliable Guide (2016). There’s more to be read on Pottermore, I think, but I haven’t yet fully explored the site.

Why did I voraciously read all of these stories about Harry Potter and the magical world he inhabits in parallel to our muggle world? Rowling’s books and stories filled me with delight and joy! They transported me across time (I’m almost 40 years old), place (back to the United Kingdom), and imagination (the self-consistent fantastic elements of magic, magical creatures, and magical history).

Rowling guides readers to her magical world through Harry and his two closest friends Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger. Then, the world widens through the development of Harry’s nemesis Draco Malfoy, and his widening circle of friends, including Luna Lovegood, Neville Longbottom, Fred and George Weasley, and Ginny Weasley. We discover more about Harry’s past through his godfather Sirius Black and his favorite defense against the dark arts teacher Professor Remus Lupin. We learn about different forms of evil from the controlling Delores Umbridge to the megalomaniacal Tom Marvolo Riddle/Lord Voldemort. We witness tragedy through terrible loss–from Harry’s parents’ sacrifice and the sacrifices Harry’s closest friends and secret ally.

Through the lives of these characters, Rowling weaves struggle and triumph; mundane and wonder; bravery and fear; happiness and angst; courage and uncertainty; kindness and cruelty; and love and hatred. These themes explored and experienced by Harry and his friends drew me into the books unlike anything that I have read in a very long time. I felt the things that Rowling wrote her characters experiencing.

I felt an affinity with Harry and his friends as they confronted the challenges presented by youth, school, and Lord Voldemort. I encouragingly agreed with some of their choices, and I steadfastly disagreed with others. This tension between their choosing the path that I would choose and choosing the path that I would not choose endeared them to me as would real friends. Their youthful humanity made their world as alive and real to me–if not more so in some respects–as anything considered mainstream fiction.

Besides reading about Harry Potter, I consider myself very lucky that I can return to his adventures with LEGO. For those of you who know me, I enjoy building with LEGO. Even though Y and I had not read Harry Potter before, she bought some of the last LEGO Harry Potter sets when we lived in Ohio–4867 Hogwarts, 4841 Hogwarts Express, 4842 Hogwarts Castle. We had left these with my parents in Georgia, who I visited before school started back. I made a point of filling my checked bag with all of the LEGO that I could hold, including those Harry Potter sets and some LEGO train gear (motor, battery pack, IR receiver, IR controller, and track).

During the snow day last week, I assembled all of our Harry Potter LEGO sets and recorded a short video of the Hogwarts Express (with the Weasley’s car flying overhead) traveling past Hogwarts. Over the weekend, I modified Hogwarts to be three bricks higher and the buildings rearranged to be slightly closer to their film arrangement (I have only seen the first three films and those many years ago, so I have all eight films to see in order now, too!). I also made a LEGO vignette of the final duel between Harry and Lord Voldemort. Unfortunately, the aftermarket for Harry Potter LEGO sets is through the roof! I hope that I can get some of the other sets such as Hagrid’s Hut (4738), Graveyard Duel (4766) and Snape’s Class (4706)–I’ll have to save my galleons!

If you have never read any of the Harry Potter books, do yourself a favor and pick up the first one. After you begin reading, you won’t want to stop until you find out how it works out for The Boy Who Lived! In the meantime, you can watch the Hogwarts Express make its way to the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry below.

 

Call for Submissions Emanations II: Second Sight

Carter Kaplan posted the call for the next Emanations collection subtitled “Second Sight.” You can read it below or on the official website here.

Carter put together a successful first collection that can be found on Amazon here. He and his contributors do very good work, and I am very glad that I can be a member of the Board of Editorial Advisors.

Read on, and send in your work:

Call for Submissions Emanations II

International Authors and the editors of Emanations are happy to announce a Call for Submissions:

Emanations: Second Sight

Emanations is an anthology series featuring fiction, poetry, essays, manifestos and reviews. The emphasis is on alternative narrative structures, new epistemologies, peculiar settings, esoteric themes, sharp breaks from reality, ecstatic revelations, and vivid and abundant hallucinations.

The editors are interested in recognizable genres—science fiction, fantasy, horror, mystery, local color, romance, realism, surrealism, postmodernism–but the idea is to make something new, and along these lines the illusion of something new can be just as important. If a story or poem makes someone say, “Yes, but what is it?” then it’s right for Emanations. Essays should be exuberant, daring, and free of pedantry. Length is a consideration in making publication decisions, but in keeping with the spirit of the project contributors should consider length to be “open.”

Our editorial vision is evolving. Contributors should see themselves as actively shaping the “vision” of Emanations.

Send files with brief cover note to Carter Kaplan:

IAsubmissions@hotmail.com

Deadline: April 2, 2012

Emanations is a not-for-profit literary project and contributors cannot be compensated at
this time. All proceeds from the sale of Emanations will support the efforts of International Authors to publish new voices from around the world.

Please post questions, suggestions and ideas. The project is a collaborative effort, and as we share ideas the “vision” transforms, evolves, and grows. When we write stories and poems we hope to bring to bear the entire battery of modern and postmodern literary devices. More simply: we like good, strong writing. Our essays are incisive, precise, keen, challenging, and driven by the writer’s desire to advance an intelligent audience’s understanding of important subjects.

The Fine Print:

1) Submit files as follows: double space, Microsoft Word, Times New Roman 12 pt. The book will be formatted by the editors before publication.

2) No simultaneous submissions (contributors should get fairly quick feedback anyway, especially if their submission meets our needs). Material that is obviously pulled from a file and has nothing to do with the goals of the anthology won’t get any feedback beyond the initial acknowledgement.

3) Word count/line count? See details above. We’re flexible, but contributors should be sensible when considering what they send in. A novella? Well, maybe, and so on…. Rules of thumb: a) Stories: very short to 20-30 pages. b) Poems: send in 5-10 pages. c) Essays: 5-10-30 pages.

4) Published as hard copy only—Emanations will be available on Amazon. Participants who make a substantial contribution of material, editorial work, or art will get a copy. It can take some time to get copies to contributors outside of North America. In the case of our first anthology, for example, it took forty-five days to get a copy to a contributor in to Nepal.

5) In the past, International Authors has made it possible for contributors to purchases copies “at cost” using coupon codes, and so on. International Authors is a consortium, and as such every contributor is a “member” or our community, and contributors are encouraged to help promote the anthology by sending review copies to newspapers, journals and relevant Web sites.

6) Copyright “reverts” to contributors upon publication. That is, after a piece appears in Emanations, the contributor can seek to publish their piece elsewhere. Contributors should understand that Emanations will remain for sale on Amazon indefinitely.

Published By International Authors

Board of Editorial Advisors

Ruud Antonius, Netherlands/Spain
Steve Aylett, UK
Michael Beard, US
Michael Butterworth, UK
Jason W. Ellis, US
Cedric Cester, Spain
Mike Chivers, UK
Mack Hassler, US
Horace Jeffery
Hodges, South Korea
Sushma Joshi, Nepal
Carter Kaplan, US
Devashish Makhija, India
Vitasta Raina, India
Elkie Riches, UK
Dario Rivarossa, Italy
Kai Robb, US
Stephen Sylvester, US

A Search for Episodic TV That Deals With the Fantastic, Found

This morning, Y was asking me about watching a TV show late at night a long time ago about a couple who discover that their radio can tune into the conversations of their apartment building neighbors. I had never seen it, but we brainstormed Google searches for television series that deal with the fantastic.

I thought of The Outer Limits, The Twlight Zone, and Amazing Stories. However, I was far off the mark thinking of show creators Leslie Stevens, Rod Serling, and Steven Spielberg. There were also shows like Night Gallery and Tales from the Crypt (an old favorite of mine when I was younger that I occasionally watched when the local cable company offered HBO free during promotions).

Thinking about it now, all of these examples rely to a certain extent on horror as the glue that binds the series together. There are episodes that lack this generic quality, but the theme of horror seems to pervade each episode in one way or another–as a major narrative force or as a flash-grab at the audience’s attention.

Eventually, Y found out that “The Enormous Radio” was an episode from George Romero’s Tales from the Darkside.

SFSignal’s Interactive Flowchart to NPR’s 100 Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Novels

SFSignal.com has a useful, interactive flowchart to find something to read on NPR’s listener-compiled Best 100 Science Fiction and Fantasy Novels here. The Science Fiction > Cyberpunk > Gritty Noir (William Gibson’s Neuromancer) | Neo-Victorial (Neal Stephenson’s The Diamond Age, or a Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer) | Samurai (Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash) seems to make sense–I suppose it illustrates that cyberpunk lives on in the popular imagination, beyond the movement per se.

Connect with the Science Fiction Research Association Online via Web, Email, Facebook, and Twitter

The Science Fiction Research Association (SFRA) is the oldest professional organization devoted to the study and teaching of science fiction and fantasy across all media, including print, film, television, and video games.

Besides joining the organization and receiving access to publications and journals, including SFRA Review, Extrapolation, and Science Fiction Studies, as well as qualifying for participation in the the annual conference (the next will be in Detroit, more info here), you can take part in the discussion through the SFRA’s online presence dispersed around the Internet. Here are four ways to learn more and stay in touch:

First, you can connect to the SFRA at the organization’s official website here.

Second, you can join the lively SFRA Email List conversation by following the instructions here.

Third, you can ‘like’ the SFRA’s Facebook page here.

Fourth, you can follow the SFRA’s Twitter feed (@sfranews) here.

I look forward to talking with you in cyberspace!

SFRA Panel at Dragon*Con Was a Success!

On Sunday, the Science Fiction Research Association was represented by Lisa Yaszek, Doug Davis, Jason Embry, and myself at the 11:30am Dragon*Con panel in Atlanta, Georgia titled: “What Does Science Fiction Mean? A Conversation with the SFRA.” SFRA Publicity Director R. Nicole Smith coordinated with the Dragon*Con Sci-Fi & Fantasy Literature Track planners to make the panel a reality.

The panel was attended by approximately 20 Dragon*Con members, and the ensuing conversation between the panel and the audience was electric. We received comments from long-time science fiction fans who had taken classes in the 1970s, and we received questions from educators and creative writing teachers about the use of science fiction in the academy. As part of the conversation, we also shared the history of the SFRA and our own unique histories as SF scholars with the audience.

The session was a great success, because we had a delightful conversation that ran over our allotted time. It was a fulfilling experience to connect with Dragon*Con SF and fantasy fans, because they had compelling questions and unique experiences to share with us. The panel was also a success on another level, because it increased the visibility of our organization and the work of its members in an audience that should be a continuing part of our discourse in the SFRA.

Many thanks to the audience members who attended the panel!

CFP: NeMLA 2012 Panel on Apocalyptic Projections in Sci-Fi and/or Fantasy Literature for 2012 and Beyond, Sept 30 Deadline

This cfp sounds interesting:

CFP: NeMLA March 15-18, 2012, Rochester, NY, U.S.A.

Apocalyptic Projections in Sci-Fi and/or Fantasy Literature for 2012 and Beyond

This panel provides an opportunity to explore the ramifications of the 2012 doomsday prophesiers on cultural behavior as witnessed within the genre of science fiction literature and cinema. The term apocalyptic may include any means of total or near-total destruction, whether it is caused by humans, aliens or Nature. Papers analyzing the role apocalyptic sci-fi and/or fantasy have played and continue to play in literature, cinema, theater and other aspects of culture will be the main emphasis of this panel. Focus can be on apocalyptic visual arts and cinema, but written literature is also appropriate.
Please send e-mail abstracts of 250-300 words in MS Word to Annette M. Magid, SUNY Erie Community College <a_magid [you know what] yahoo.com>.

Deadline:  September 30, 2011
Please include with your abstract:
Name and Affiliation
Proposed title for your paper
E-mail address
Postal address
Telephone number
A/V requirements (if any; $10 handling fee with registration)
Visit the website at http://www.nemla.org/convention/2012/