What Are You Reading?

Beebo Brink

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#22
Also, she stole her whole idea from Ursula K. LeGuin and her Wizard of Earthsea series. Why does nobody ever bring that up?
Maybe because that's a bizarre accusation? What exactly did Rowling "steal"? The concept of magic? Wizards? Growing up?

Frankly, I don't see much similarity. Rowling's world is closer to a parody/satire of conventional, quant English culture, except she's earnest rather than critical.
 

Kukulcan

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Sep 20, 2018
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#23
Maybe because that's a bizarre accusation? What exactly did Rowling "steal"? The concept of magic? Wizards? Growing up?

Frankly, I don't see much similarity. Rowling's world is closer to a parody/satire of conventional, quant English culture, except she's earnest rather than critical.
I think she stole the idea of a wizard university and a young student entering it, and then accidentally unleashing the worst evil ever. To be fair, I only read the 1st Harry Potter, and not the rest. So maybe Rowling is super unique.
 

Beebo Brink

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#24
I think she stole the idea of a wizard university and a young student entering it, and then accidentally unleashing the worst evil ever. To be fair, I only read the 1st Harry Potter, and not the rest. So maybe Rowling is super unique.
No, Rowling is not "super unique" rather she's making use of very common themes in fantasy literature. No one owns these ideas, and LeGuin is hardly the first to use them either.

But even if LeGuin was indeed the first, this is still NOT stealing. A basic premise is for grabs by anyone, and good writers can take the same concept and turn it into completely different stories because what matters most is development: perspective, tone, language use, characters, narrative arc.

Wizards of Earthsea and Harry Potter are completely different in all aspects of the writing. To say that Rowling "stole" from Earthsea is to mistake the superficial for substance.
 

Kukulcan

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Sep 20, 2018
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#25
No, Rowling is not "super unique" rather she's making use of very common themes in fantasy literature. No one owns these ideas, and LeGuin is hardly the first to use them either.

But even if LeGuin was indeed the first, this is still NOT stealing. A basic premise is for grabs by anyone, and good writers can take the same concept and turn it into completely different stories because what matters most is development: perspective, tone, language use, characters, narrative arc.

Wizards of Earthsea and Harry Potter are completely different in all aspects of the writing. To say that Rowling "stole" from Earthsea is to mistake the superficial for substance.
Ok I see what you're saying, but I would feel guilty as a writer for trying to pass off the idea of a wizard university as cool and unique. Just as if I slightly altered a Led Zeppelin riff and claimed it as my own. Sure LeGuin may not have been the first to come up with that specific idea, but I can't think of any others who did, and also LeGuin was a pretty famous writer. I'm sure Rowling is a fan of hers.
 

Beebo Brink

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#26
Ok I see what you're saying, but I would feel guilty as a writer for trying to pass off the idea of a wizard university as cool and unique. Just as if I slightly altered a Led Zeppelin riff and claimed it as my own.
Writers don't (and shouldn't) worry about "unique" ideas, because those are few and far between, especially in the fantasy and sf genres. Space stations, starships, planetary outposts, zombie plagues, and yes, wizard universities are mostly just settings. Just as mainstream writers may write about murder mysteries, spy thrillers, early school days, university school days, families going through divorce, falling in love, leaving their family.

Harry Potter is a coming-of-age story, embellished by magic and wizard teachers, but basically still a story about a young boy growing up and facing his destiny. Hundreds, thousands of writers have taken that same idea and turned it into a unique tale of their own by the alchemy of creativity.

You're focused on what is, to be honest, probably the least important of what makes a story unique.
 

Kukulcan

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Sep 20, 2018
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#27
You're focused on what is, to be honest, probably the least important of what makes a story unique.
No I didn't. If I conjured up a sci-fi story set on a desert planet with sandworms, and a young boy's coming of age story, everyone would mock me, and rightly so.

I guess the only thing we can establish here is that we have a different set of tolerances for hacks, and that's fine.
 

Beebo Brink

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#28

Innula Zenovka

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#29
I think she stole the idea of a wizard university and a young student entering it, and then accidentally unleashing the worst evil ever. To be fair, I only read the 1st Harry Potter, and not the rest. So maybe Rowling is super unique.
If I were going to accuse her of stealing ideas, I think I'd point first to the fact she's taken the classic English boarding school saga (Angela Brazil's Mallory Towers series or Elinor Brent-Dyer's Chalet School series, for example), turned it co-ed and populated it with young wizards.
 

Fauve Aeon

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#30
If I were going to accuse her of stealing ideas, I think I'd point first to the fact she's taken the classic English boarding school saga (Angela Brazil's Mallory Towers series or Elinor Brent-Dyer's Chalet School series, for example), turned it co-ed and populated it with young wizards.
I think she cherry-picked enough really strong themes from enough well-established places and genres to seed the mind-fields of her readers to hopefully seek out more myths, magic, sagas, etc., etc.
I've seen too many non-readers read and continue to read this series to give it harsh critique regardless of what I think about her writing or other things connected to the fandom or the HP juggernaut.
 

Beebo Brink

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#32
I think she cherry-picked enough really strong themes from enough well-established places and genres to seed the mind-fields of her readers to hopefully seek out more myths, magic, sagas, etc., etc..
I think that the popularity of the books lies in the way Rowlings earnestly whipped together so many familiar themes, settings and conventional attitudes from a wide range of sources. There's nothing the least bit threatening or harsh, not even a hint of satire, in her depiction of quaint wizard life. She integrates just enough of modern life to have girls at Hogwarts, but back at home it's still Ron's mother who cooks all the meals in a comforting depiction of 1950s domesticity.

The books are safe and comforting for children, with a twist of magic that embellishes the story, like dropping glitter all over a bucolic landscape. I don't think that's a bad thing, even though it's very much not MY thing. Reading is always better than not reading. Books like The Dark is Rising or A Wrinkle in Time aren't delightful and charming, they aren't easy to read, so their audience will be more limited. But as you said, after some kid has finished reading the Harry Potter series five times over, they may just start on something a little more challenging, even if only by accident.
 

Fauve Aeon

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#33
Thanks, I saw that list too, yesterday. I noticed all those books came out after Earthsea.
and Le Guin openly acknowledged Tolkien and probably others as influences on her writing too. And her father was an anthropology prof and then there are the Merlin stories...and Beowulf and Jungian individuation and Zen koan. Many fine sources can be seen in her work. And we'd be the poorer if it did not rise up to embrace these kinds of age-old and universal (yet always new) concepts that resonate within us all when we read such tales, maybe?
 
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Free

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#34
Did Fauve just call Le Guin a hack?

(I'm kidding!)
 

Innula Zenovka

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#35
Ursula Le Guin on Harry Potter:

Q: Nicholas Lezard has written 'Rowling can type, but Le Guin can write.' What do you make of this comment in the light of the phenomenal success of the Potter books? I'd like to hear your opinion of JK Rowling's writing style

UKL: I have no great opinion of it. When so many adult critics were carrying on about the "incredible originality" of the first Harry Potter book, I read it to find out what the fuss was about, and remained somewhat puzzled; it seemed a lively kid's fantasy crossed with a "school novel", good fare for its age group, but stylistically ordinary, imaginatively derivative, and ethically rather mean-spirited.
Ursula Le Guin Q&A

No I didn't. If I conjured up a sci-fi story set on a desert planet with sandworms, and a young boy's coming of age story, everyone would mock me, and rightly so.

I guess the only thing we can establish here is that we have a different set of tolerances for hacks, and that's fine.
It would depend on how you handled it, I think. If you included sandworms and the spice trade, then yes, it (or, at least, those plot elements) would obviously be derivative.

If, however, the story's only similarity to Dune was that both were set on desert planets, then I doubt people would draw many parallels.
 
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Pamela

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#36
I have always thought the appeal of HP books is the way a whole detailed universe is created. I don’t remember that much about the plot, but the visuals are still so clear, lo these many years later.

Somehow she did that without being a very good writer, so it comes down to good instincts re what to write about.
 

Beebo Brink

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#37
Somewhat in the nature of a disclaimer, I have to confess that KuKulcan's use of the word "stealing" in the context of writing is an emotional hot button for me. In my time, I've conducted a few writer's workshops, pretty basic stuff for wannabe writers in the fantasy/sf genre, and inevitably there would be at least one attendee with a huge manuscript who was paranoid about people stealing their ideas. Even more ironic would be the fanfic writers complaining that someone had stolen their plot.... a plot filled with characters that they had lifted wholesale from the originating author.

What they all had in common was a skewed notion of the concepts of creativity and writing, of what makes a story arresting and original or what makes it derivative. They were oblivious to tone, perspective, literary style, narrative development and all the other subtleties that combine to give an author a distinctive voice. They obsessed about "ideas" -- as if this was the be all and end all of a story -- instead of recognizing that ideas are as common as dirt; it's the development that is the substance of a writer's work.

For instance, a common writing exercise is to hand out a single idea to a group of writers and then let them loose. What comes back is usually a wild riot of stories that are completely different.

Artist share ideas, fling them around like seeds of grass, grab them from each other. Ideas are just a starting point. Writers, musicians, painters are all re-using the same basic ideas all the time. Artists learn from each other, borrow bits and pieces, try to figure out how it works, try to duplicate it but with a personal twist. If someone borrows too much and adds little of their own personal embellishments, then they slide into being "derivative. The next step is plagiarism. THAT truly is stealing.
 

Free

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#38

Veritable Quandry

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#39
I like that in Hogfather, Terry Pratchett named the assassin that tries to kill the Hogfather "Teatime" but it is pronounced "Te-a-ta-me" because he got the idea for killing off an immortal by destroying belief in them while reading Douglas Adams' Long Dark Teatime of the Soul where gods can't die but lose their power as belief in them fades. So his assassin wasn't exactly like how Teatime worked, hence the different pronunciation. Then Neil Gaimen used the basic premise of immortal gods losing their power as belief changed and new gods replaced them for American Gods.

One kernel of an idea, three very different and rich novels. It got kicked around, refined, changed, and passed around again and none of them complained as far as I know about their precious idea getting abused.
 

Caete

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#40
Now available in hardback on Amazon. Here's the just released video adaptation of this soon to be classic