not your typical annihilatrix (furiosity) wrote,
not your typical annihilatrix
furiosity

Dyin' to press the issue

"JKR is mediocre! Not so mediocre that her world has engaged my brain enough to write fanfic about her characters, but details! She sucks! Nyah!"

Not a real quote, a summation of an attitude that I've always found bewildering and, well, stupid.

Disclaimer: Besides being 100% unapologetically subjective and biased, this rant may include occasional bouts of capslock, bad puns and sarcasm. If you can't handle that kind of thing, you click the cut at your own risk. As for the rest, Eminem always supplies the words I lack.


...it's not the idea that JKR is mediocre, it's that attitude coupled with continued efforts to write fan fiction in JKR's universe, especially fan fiction that makes pretenses at being literary. I've got no issue with people who picked up book 1, decided it was not their cuppa, and they explain their reasons by saying that the writing is juvenile (which it is), the characters flat (which they are, at that point) and the world is too contradictory (which it is). The magic of HP is not in its amazing literary value, and anyone looking for literary value in the Harry Potter books will be sorely disappointed.

I do admit I have a general tendency to laugh at people who believe that every book they pick up ought to be a work of literature and if it isn't, they're not going to bother with it. Because those people are missing out on a hell of a lot of fantastic stories -- ways to engage their imagination, not just tickle their literary clit. I laugh at them because I think it's a profoundly stupid move to actively avoid giving your imagination a workout; it's there for a reason, yo. Don't use it, you lose it -- and these same people tend to be haughty and holier-than-thou about their amazing shiny thinking process, while completely missing the irony of their situation. It's stupid. And stupidity is funny, so I laugh. But this is a general thing, not one related to Harry Potter -- I'm not saying that everyone who finds HP unimaginative is one of these literary snobs, not at all. However, I submit that most people who find HP unimaginative have never made it past book two. It is their right to claim HP is unimaginative, but of course their opinion is based on only a segment of the whole series and therefore their opinion is most questionable. In my opinion, which is not entirely pulled out of my ass, I'm happy to report -- I liken it to judging a group of people by experience with a few members of that group. It's an opinion based on experience, but the experience is so laughably limited that I can only shrug and say "you're entitled to think it, yo."

People will see resemblances between Harry Potter and other stories written for the same age group and say "been there, done that" and not want to spend their time on a chewed-up version of an old story whose writing is juvenile, characters flat and the world contradictory. I get them, I do -- from personal experience, even. I didn't get the HP hype at all until I saw PoA (that's right, the movie), and I'm far from being a literary snob. I did not get the appeal of the books until I saw the third film and had that "I have to know what happens next, I want to know more about these characters!" feeling -- the story caught me. Which means that the characters, since book 1, have improved, the world has grown more cohesive and -- perhaps most importantly of all -- you could almost touch the magic, because there was an engaging story beneath the flaws. By the time I was done with GoF, I was a goner. I can point at things that are wrong with the writing, I can point at inconsistencies, I can point at characters who are no more than poorly done caricatures. Sure, I can do all that, but I'd be missing the point if I decided that the series sucks because it's not perfect.

Nothing sucks just because it's not perfect. Unless you're a Type A personality so psychotic I'll take the liberty of suggesting you seek professional help, NOW. Nothing is ever perfect. No, Virginia, not even your fan fiction epic. Sorry about that. If something sucks, it sucks -- even if there are people who like it, it still sucks. If something is original in execution, it does not suck. No matter how hard it sucks in technical or literary areas, it does not suck on the whole. Because dude? Nothing is new under this long-suffering sun of ours; every story has already been told at least once. Strip a story of its execution and you are left with nothing but an idea that can be compared to hundreds, maybe thousands, of other stories and is no better or worse than any of them. Ideas are bulletproof; they're also at their core boring unless you've got strong philosophical leanings.

If you can hold up a book that takes an old idea, or a set of old ideas, and frames them in an entirely new light, I'll tell you you're holding a damn good book in your hands. The Harry Potter series is a story that does this; does not simply recast something already tired and old in a new mould and makes it pretty, but brings tired ideas to life in a way that is absolutely irresistible to anyone with an active, working imagination (of COURSE kids are reading these books, damn it, kids are the only ones on this rock whose imaginations are least atrophied!). JKR is a superb storyteller and you're full of shit if you can maintain a straight face whilst claiming that she isn't. She's no Hans Christian Andersen or JRR Tolkien, and perhaps she's not even up there with them, but she's a heck of a lot better than a lot of other "storytellers" of our time, some of whom are critically acclaimed (which is to say, some of the more pretentious twits in New York critic cirles have creamed themselves about their unfortunate "stories" and said so in their columns or Yearly Reviews or whateverthefuck).

Ahem. My point is that there's nothing wrong with refusing to read JKR's drivel because the first two volumes of said drivel did not meet your expectations of literary value or even storytelling potential (that she's a superb storyteller does not mean that there aren't people with unrealistically high standards, who really only like that ONE book, and they refuse to like any more of them. Why bother reading new things when you can re-read the same good book over and over again? Yay!). However, if you've been along for the ride for all six books, are actively writing fan fiction set in JKR's world and in your spare time sit buffing your nails against your lapel and pontificating on how badly JKR sucks? Yeah, you over there, with the smart glasses and the tin hat? Please don't expect to look smart while you're criticising absolutely every aspect of JKR's writing and calling her mediocre. You ain't no pro critic and you ain't no hotshot, honeypie. All you look like when you go on about how awful JKR's writing is and how she fails at everything WHILE STILL WRITING FAN FICTION SET IN HER WORLD? Like ten thousand pounds of hypocritical asshole, that's what you look like. Sitting there going "Well, they're nice IDEAS, but I can do BETTER" is so stupid that there is not enough sand in the world to measure the number of stupid units that have somehow made a home in your unfortunate brain. Because JKR's got a hell of a lot more than mere ideas.

(Of course, no one ever SAYS they can do better, but it's implied so heavily every time that they might as well come right the fuck out and say it).

No, you can't do a better job with her characters, not any more than you can do a better job with any other writer's characters. If a writer created a world and characters, no matter how flawed, they are still that writer's ideas, they are still that writer's vision and their telling of those ideas is the only *right* way. Not yours. It is easy to say "I can do better than that" once the basic idea has been communicated to you. Yeah, anyone with a modicum of skill and a bit of free time can write a more rounded, more fleshed-out version of Draco, or Ron, or Harry, or the giant bloody squid. THAT IS NOT THE POINT, ARSE MONKEY. Japanese industury manufactures better computer innards than the rest of the civilised world, but computers didn't come from Japan, and no one is ever going to forget that, yo. No one can write Harry Potter better than J.K. Rowling herself -- adverbs, "smiled" dialogue and unrealistic "real world" be damned. No one can do it better -- not you, not William Gibson, not Stephen King, not Terry Pratchett.

And I doubt that any of those esteemed gentlemen would ever DREAM of "improving upon" the world of JKR because they've got LOADS of original ideas of their own, they don't need to steal from other writers and console themselves that they're "better" at the actual writing. You really can't do better than originality, sugarplum, and that's the sad part about your crusade to shout from every treetop that JKR is mediocre. She may have faulty technique but she certainly does not lack originality. And you do! Which is what really gets to you, innit? STFU, please, and find yourself another fandom, preferably for something you actually enjoy.

Criticising JKR's characterisation, even if you use big, smart words like "consistency", "continuity" and "concordance" makes you no smarter than the person who wrote this petition to "ban" book 7 if JKR doesn't write H/Hr in it. Dude. They are her books. Her characters. Her world. Her vision. They do not belong to you in the slightest, not even if you have written sixteen million words of schmoopy H/D romance with the occasional buttsex interlude. SHE CANNOT GO WRONG WITH HER CHARACTERS. They may behave unrealistically, sure. Their actions in book X might contradict something they did in preceding book Y. They may suddenly undergo a complete personality overhaul without a word of explanation as to how this happened. IT IS HER RIGHT TO DO THIS. SHE DOES NOT ACTUALLY OWE YOU AN EXPLANATION, AND IF A CHARACTER'S ACTIONS ARE "INCONSISTENT" WITH A MODE OF BEHAVIOUR THEY CAME TO ADOPT IN PREVIOUS BOOKS, LET HIM WHO'S NEVER DONE A SINGLE CONTRADICTORY THING IN HIS LIFE FLING THE FIRST ACCUSATION OF "LACK OF REALISM". Hermione is not OOC in book 6, she just isn't. She does things you wouldn't expect her to do but HI. TEENAGER. HORMONES. If you want a chapter in HBP filled with scientific jargon that explains why teenagers will sometimes act in highly unpredictable ways, you're on your own, fartbrain! Ginny's personality did get a facelift in book 5, continued in book 6, without a word of explanation as to how that might have happened other than "hee, I was just shy around you, Harry!!1 *_*". That's bad writing (insofar as you consider failing to provide your characters with sufficient motivation 'bad writing', which I do) and sloppy character development but it is NOT OUT OF CHARACTER. None of JKR's characters are acting out of character if the text you are reading is authored by JK Rowling. She's the one who created them, she's the one who's writing their story, and she knows them a fucking HELL of a lot better than you EVER will. Yes, you! All of you.

If you think you can "do better" than JKR at the characters she herself created, you're just as fucking delusional as your friendly neighbourhood Harmonian, no matter how many big words you can cram into a sentence. You cannot improve upon someone else's characters and make them better in and of themselves. You can "improve upon" JKR's characters and create your own versions of them, but no matter how original your adaptation, it will always pale in comparison to the real deal because imitation is inferior to creation, inferior simply because it lacks a huge degree of imagination and (not unrelatedly) it lacks originality. And anything that lacks in comparison to something else is by definition inferior.


And that's all I think on that particular subject. Call it warm-up for that shitload of rants I promised y'all.
Tags: fandom:hp, meta:fan fiction, meta:fandom, rant
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