Wednesday, June 25

Art

Harry Who?

It would seem that I have been labouring under a misapprehension and Harry Potter is not in fact the colonel who commanded the 4077th in later episodes of M*A*S*H. He is, it would appear, the hero of an absurdly popular series of books by one J. K. Rowling.

I dropped in today on a friend of mine who runs a bookstore here in Sydney. Not a small bookstore, but not a huge one either. He ordered in 600 copies of the hardcover edition of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - and sold them all in three days.

Now, I don't begrudge Ms. Rowling her squillions... Alright, I do begrudge her her squillions, but not to the extent that I begrudge Microsoft theirs. But I'm at a loss to explain the popularity of these books. They're not bad, but -

I have a collection of Fritz Leiber's short stories; I bought it because it contained some stories that I'd never seen collected elsewhere. Total world-wide print run of this book was 80 copies. Why? There's no question, none at all, that Fritz Leiber was a better writer than J. K. Rowling. Why wasn't he a squillionaire too?

Leiber's work isn't for children, but a large proportion of Harry Potter readers are adults. I don't mind at all that adults read and enjoy Harry Potter, but why aren't they also reading Dunsany? Or in a similar vein, Neil Gaiman's Stardust, a beautiful and wondrous tale almost flawless in its tribute to Dunsany's style. It's good to see that Leiber's Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser books are being kept in print, but where oh where is The Silver Eggheads?

Why, if adults find they enjoy fantasy, are they not reading masters of the weird and wonderful like Tim Powers and Michael Shea? Why not Lois Bujold, who can create characters who sometimes seem more real than my own family, or C. J. Cherryh, who writes so well that a hundred pages can pass with no action and you barely notice and care not at all? When will we see a movie version of The Anubis Gates or Nifft the Lean or The Curse of Chalion or Gate of Ivrel?

Why are they not reading Ursula Le Guin? Why not T.H. White? Why not - well, actually, Terry Pratchett is doing pretty well. And Stephen Donaldson - his novels may not appeal to all, but do try his short stories in Daughter of Regals and Reave the Just.

As for me? Well, since I couldn't buy the latest Harry Potter epic, it may be time for me to finish my own novel and maybe, just maybe, make some squillions of my own.

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