I remember walking through a movie theater and seeing a teaser poster for the first Harry Potter film. It showed an owl carrying a card addressed to Harry, in the cupboard under the stairs. There it is, to the right.
I was not a Harry Potter fan at the time, so I reacted to this much the same way I would react to a Living with the Kardasians film: annoyance and disgust.
See, being a fan of science fiction and fantasy is supposed to be outside the norm. I’d built my entire life around the idea that I was different from everyone else. (More on my crisis of geekdom in an upcoming essay.)
And here was this stinking boy wizard turning everyone into a fantasy geek. People who had never even heard of Narnia, Krynn, or Middle Earth, who wouldn’t know a Balrog from a Chromatic Dragon, rambled on and on about Hogwarts and He Who Must Not Be Named.
What about him so transfixed everyone?
Oh, I would learn.
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Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling announced this morning (video here) that she will be releasing
“something unique: an online reading experience unlike any other. It’s called Pottermore. It’s the same story, with a few crucial additions. The most important one is you. Just as the experience of reading requires that the imaginations of the author and reader work together to create the story, so Pottermore will be built in part by you, the reader. The digital generation will be able to enjoy a safe, online reading experience built around the Harry Potter books.“
She claims that this new website will include not only the ability to buy digital audiobook and e-book versions of the Potter series, but also that she will be directly involved with the community, revealing tidbits about the universe which she’s known for years but which never made it directly into the novels.
For about a week, rumors have been swirling across the internet about the exact nature of Pottermore, since Rowling established a website by that name and a mysterious countdown clock appeared on YouTube (shown below).
Speculations ran wild throughout the week, fueled by tantalizing clues, some of them intentional, such as an online Google Maps-based game, and some unintentional, like the discovery that Warner Bros. had registered the website for trademark as a “global information computer network.”
Rowling and her spokesmen have been quiet on the details, except to stay that it is definitely not a new novel set in the Harry Potter universe, but still some have wondered if it was the long-anticipated Harry Potter encyclopedia, which Rowling has hinted may someday be released for charity.
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While fantasy on television has suffered a bit over the last couple of years, films are doing better than ever. Animated films, especially, seem really able to grasp the complex worlds of fantasy. Looking over a list of 2010 films, some real highlights come to mind. What’s amazing is that the films oriented toward adult audiences, such as Clash of the Titans and Alice in Wonderland (both reviewed in the upcoming Black Gate #15), were almost entirely underwhelming, while the young adult films contained some surprising (and not-so-surprising) gems. I previously spoke about Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (along with compelling follow-up commentary by Magille Foote), so I’ll focus on some other films from the year.
How to Train Your Dragon
Hands down, of the fantasy films I’ve seen this year, my favorite was the unexpectedly charming How to Train Your Dragon. Any film with vikings and dragons guarantees to entertain, but I did not anticipate that this film would tug at the heartstrings quite as much as it does.
The main character, Hiccup, is the scrawny young son of a Viking chieftain who decides that rather than killing a wounded dragon, he will instead befriend it. Out of this strange new friendship he calls into question everything he’s ever known about the Viking way of life … and about a threat that’s even more deadly than the dragons they’ve encountered in the past.
It’s really a wonderful coming-of-age story about standing up for your principles even when it’s difficult, when everyone around you believes that you’re not only wrong, but outright foolish.
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