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A Wizard of Earthsea (Earthsea Cycle, #1)
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2014 Reads > WoE: Earthsea and Harry Potter

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Zach Chapman | 35 comments I’ve been listening to the podcast for about half a year now. This past episode about Earthsea was the first time I had an emotional response. After hearing the bit about Harry Potter and Earthsea I was confused. Then after sitting in my cubical, the podcast paused, I became frustrated. J.K. Rowling derivative of Ursula K Le Guin!? And what was that about UKLG’s quote about the Harry Potter series? I'm not even a big fan of the Harry Potter series but I had to look up the quote. This is what she said(after being prompted her opinion about HP):

“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.”

I wanted to shout “Okay, Mrs High and Mighty, your works are extremely derivative.” Does Tolkien ring any bells? How about the extremely derivative reoccurring concept of having power over something or someone because you know its/their true name? Even in the 60s this was a tired idea.

I digress. Back to Harry Potter. More specifically, how is it so derivative of Earthsea that it warrants discussion? They both have Wizarding schools. I guess Rowling should be sending Le Guin paychecks, right? Except Hogwarts is so unrelated to Le Guin’s school that it can’t and shouldn’t be seen as derivative. Earthsea’s magical school is structured more like a wizarding guild, or a magic-dojo and is breezed over in just a few pages. Hogwarts is more like a prep-school that takes model and inspiration from real schools. To say the idea stemed from Le Guin’s fantasy is, to me, a disingenuous statement. She's not even the first to come up with magical schools. That award would go to Robert Sheckley, Eleanor Estes would take the silver metal and Le Guin would take the bronze for being the third to write about magical schools.

Huff, huff, huff. Okay, my rant’s over. Sorry, I just had to get that off my chest. I’m not a die-hard fan of either of these series, I just felt like Le Guin might have a big head and a bigoted attitude. Anyways, what are your guys thoughts and opinions on this topic? Am I crazy and Rowling is just ripping off Le Guin?


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Rick | 2867 comments You Potter fans are so adorable.


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Ken (kanthr) | 334 comments I Think UKLG's comment that you posted is accurate and fair.

If you'd read her other books "The Word for World is Forest", "The Lathe of Heaven", or "The Left Hand of Darkness", you would know that her comments are not defensive of Earthsea but critical of Rowling. LeGuin's concepts, particularly in those books I mentioned, are indeed original.

You're not crazy. Rowling is not ripping off UKLG, she's ripping off every fantasy cliche/stereotype since Beowulf and reversing names, mix-and-matching them - but very little is original.

I feel that Rowling only gets such staunch defenders because of her widespread commercial success. Which if I must remind, does not equate with literary success.


Zach Chapman | 35 comments I was not really expecting a rude reply from this group. Rick, did you not read my post? I said I'm not a huge fan from either series. I'd appreciate a non-trolling, pertinent post.


Zach Chapman | 35 comments Kenneth wrote: "I Think UKLG's comment that you posted is accurate and fair.

If you'd read her other books "The Word for World is Forest", "The Lathe of Heaven", or "The Left Hand of Darkness", you would know th..."


I'll have to read some of her other works, The Left Hand of Darkness is one in particular that I've heard is good. I think both works "pay homage" quite a bit, maybe overly so.


Alan | 534 comments Le Guin wasn't saying that Potter was a rip-off of Earthsea but just that Potter was a transplant of the English School novel into a fantasy school. It's smart but not original. When I read the first couple of Potter books, I got major flashbacks to Wodehouse's school stories.

Personally, I think that Rowling doesn't get enough credit for the craft of her work. That the style of the books ages with her protagonists (and her audience). If, however, you were judging the series based solely on the first book (and I bet Le Guin would only have read one) you wouldn't be blown away by its literary merits.


Michal (michaltheassistantpigkeeper) | 294 comments Terry Pratchett clarifies her comments. Quite a few older fantasy authors were peeved during the Harry Potter craze (though not specifically peeved at J.K. Rowling, though I think Pratchett's criticism of one of her comments was spot on):

http://www.beyondhogwarts.com/story.2...


message 8: by Tassie Dave, S&L Historian (new) - rated it 3 stars

Tassie Dave | 3597 comments Mod
There is nothing wrong with borrowing ideas. If all fiction had to be original we'd have very few new books.

I don't even think authors who do borrow ideas need to acknowledge the original, as long as they don't commit plagiarism.

I've read a lot of fantasy fiction in my 5 decades of reading and very few have been original but that hasn't stopped me from enjoying the well written ones.


message 9: by Daran (last edited Feb 12, 2014 01:56AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Daran | 599 comments I have to admit that I have never understood the comments Rowling made in the article that prompted LeGuinn's and Pratchett's responses. She said she didn't think she was writing fantasy. That seems silly. She said she was trying to subvert the genre. If Rowling was attempting to subvert the fantasy genre by writing one of the most mainstream children's fantasy series ever written, then she succeeded. She said she never really read fantasy. Then she came up with all of the most familiar patterns of the YA fantasy series on her own? Wow.

All of the above means she cannot possibly acknowledge the influence of writers like Tolkien, Lewis and many others who came before. This is what Pratchett and LeGuinn are speaking to. Namely, the assertion that Rowling generated Harry Potter by all by herself. Even Pratchett and Pullman acknowledge the influence of C.S. Lewis, and they spend much of their time arguing against him.

LeGuinn has stated that Tolkien and many others influenced her Earthsea stories. She acknowledges the context in which they were produced. It is only polite.


Louise (louiseh87) | 352 comments Le Guin's Earthsea is *in dialogue with* the genre. She saw the archetypal wise wizard figure and decided to extrapolate where he came from, how he grew up. Whereas Rowling appeared to be trying to say Potter transcended genre. Which is completely untrue. Nevermind C.S. Lewis and Tolkien, I can see the roots of Harry Potter in the Worst Witch books and Diana Wynne Jones. Much of the elements of Potter are derivative. Nothing wrong with being derivative. But it's unfair to deny that's what you're doing.

Furthermore, le Guin doesn't even refer to Earthsea in the comment you posted. She's commenting on the place of Harry Potter within the genre in a wider context. This is someone who knows the genre very well.


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Zach Chapman | 35 comments Yes, but I'm also referring to the podcast.


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Zach Chapman | 35 comments Daran wrote: "I have to admit that I have never understood the comments Rowling made in the article that prompted LeGuinn's and Pratchett's responses. She said she didn't think she was writing fantasy. That s..."

Wow, after reading what Rowling said about the Fantasy genre, I looked up what Rowling said; I totally agree with you. It was a very bizarre thing to say. Kinda makes me think much less of her.


message 13: by Louise (last edited Feb 12, 2014 06:04AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Louise (louiseh87) | 352 comments Zach wrote: "Yes, but I'm also referring to the podcast."

I can see why you made the connection then - I'm not convinced le Guin really wanted to draw a specific connection between Harry Potter and her work (it's just inevitable that interviewers ask questions based on that I guess). The podcast did draw the connection without going into much more context.

I recently re-listed to the Coode Street Podcast episode with Ursula le Guin - I highly recommend it. She is similarly articulate about Margaret Atwood's relationship with genre.


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Christopher B. | 56 comments After hearing this story in the podcast and learning more here I must admit I think less of Rowling as a person. But I still enjoy the Harry Potter books. I will also be reading the Earthsea books been meaning to since seing the miniseries so many years ago on TV.


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Zach Chapman | 35 comments Louise, I am not a fan of Atwood's stance on sf and fantasy. I had forgotten about Left Guin's response to her. I'll listen to that podcast and plug this great podcast as well:

geeksguideshow.com/2012/07/17/ggg65-u...


message 16: by Daran (last edited Feb 12, 2014 01:44PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Daran | 599 comments I feel that a lot of the authors who make such statements (Rowling, Atwood) are those that have experienced immediate success writing in the genre. They didn't work their way up the ladder. They didn't make contacts and friendships with others working in the genre. I'm not making a factual statement, it is just a feeling I have based on past observations.


Whitney (whitneychakara) | 179 comments So, I really didn't see in your quote where she said Rowling owed her anything at all. Did I miss something?


Whitney (whitneychakara) | 179 comments This is Kenneth's post I posted it again because I think he summed it up nicely.

I Think UKLG's comment that you posted is accurate and fair.

If you'd read her other books "The Word for World is Forest", "The Lathe of Heaven", or "The Left Hand of Darkness", you would know that her comments are not defensive of Earthsea but critical of Rowling. LeGuin's concepts, particularly in those books I mentioned, are indeed original.

You're not crazy. Rowling is not ripping off UKLG, she's ripping off every fantasy cliche/stereotype since Beowulf and reversing names, mix-and-matching them - but very little is original.

I feel that Rowling only gets such staunch defenders because of her widespread commercial success. Which if I must remind, does not equate with literary success.


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Zach Chapman | 35 comments Again, I was also replying to the podcast.


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Zach Chapman | 35 comments @Daran I think you're absolutely right.


Whitney (whitneychakara) | 179 comments All I can say is that it would be a dream of mine to have the PR, Marketing, Lawyers etc. that J.K. has. I've always steered clear of saying so but to me Harry Potter and that whole franchise have the smell of a packaged deal.


Louise (louiseh87) | 352 comments All the same, once Potter took off, I vividly remember books like Earthsea and those by Diana Wynne Jones being reprinted and displayed prominently in Waterstones. Admittedly it was with a sign saying "like Harry Potter, read this", but I hope they made something off it.


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Keith (keithatc) I wonder what she would think of the "unofficial" Harry Potter entries written in China. http://www.11points.com/Books/11_Amaz...


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Ken (kanthr) | 334 comments It IS a package deal. Lunchboxes and the works.


Joshua Park (joshuapark) | 21 comments Thanks for Pratchett's comments, Michal! I didn't actually realize here was much controversy in the SFF world during the Potter heyday.

See, I didn't actually get back into reading until--gasp!--Harry Potter reminded me about how fun it is to read. I read a lot as a kid but took an extended break until the HP phenomenon brought me back to loving spec fic again. I don't tend to rate things on a literary scale. It's more of a Funmeter for me.

I think what Pratchett said is spot on. Love the guy. Yes, it's silly that journalists would take HP as so original, unique, etc. I agree with everything he said in that article, including pointing out the oddity that Rowling hadn't gone and read through the staples of the genre.

I'd also say, though, that Rowling's comment that HP "transcended" the fantasy genre is true in one sense: it transcended the social stigma against fantasy books. Harry Potter was and is pervasive in our culture. When the new books came out, it was an event. We could have shared experiences in the bookstore that I hadn't seen before or since. Then the movies came along and the whole of fantasy was out in the public eye with even more gusto!

Just as with Peter Jackson's adaptation of LOTR, fantasy was everywhere you could talk about dragons and wizards and all sorts of magical realms with people who had never grown up with that kind of thing. Grandma even got in on the action.

In this sense, I believe, HP transcended the social trappings of the fantasy genre. It wasn't just for us nerds anymore. If Rowling didn't mean that aspect, then she was wrong.

But I am young and ignorant. My wise elders should put my to rights if I've erred. When Earthsea came out, were there parties? Did UKLG's other works bring new readers to SFF in droves? Or, let me not pick on Le Guin. I had fun with Earthsea. Did people dress up as Frodo or Legolas in the 50s? The 60s? Certainly, LOTR got popular on college campuses in the 70s, as I have heard. But didn't the stigma against fantasy literature still persist until very recently?


Whitney (whitneychakara) | 179 comments Kenneth wrote: "It IS a package deal. Lunchboxes and the works."

by packaged I mean LJ SMITH style from beginning to end.


Daran | 599 comments @Joshua
Could the type of transcendence you talk about been intended at the time of writing, before the first book was even bought by the publisher? Rowling was asserting that what she did, she did in the writing. What your talking about is a good marketing campaign, and the luck of the draw.


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Ken (kanthr) | 334 comments Earthsea did not have an accompanying plethora of tie-in media or social events anything close to the scale of HP. It was more or less one more fantasy release in a genre that was considered to be read by geeks.

Which, is actually fine by me. I'll keep buying good books and supporting those authors. I don't mind being the minority.

What I think a lot of people resent is that Rowling seems to claim to have one-upped all the giants upon whose shoulders she stands. Giants whose works dwarf hers in literary importance and depth of content like a galaxy compared to an ant.


message 29: by Ben (last edited Feb 13, 2014 08:51AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ben Rowe (benwickens) I actually think Rowling is reasonably humble about her role and position as a fantasist. To my mind it is labels that other people have put about her work that her critics are often responding to.

The Harry Potter books owe many literary debts but that is often the nature of the genre. Most of the fantasy published owes huge debts to what came before. Look at the debt Sword of Shanara owes to Lord of the Rings. That did not stop the book from being an enjoyable read and loved by millions. What I think the harry potter books do well is put all these elements in a package that lots of people find accessible and satisfying - although personally I prefer more original and more crucially better written fantasy than that series offers.

Le Guin's work as a whole manages to both work within established traditions of the field and innovate both in its center and edges. Take for instance the hugely stylistically experimental Always Coming Home or how The Left Hand of Darkness manages to both sit comfortably within expected standards of the genre and be innovative and agitate at the same time.

I do think there is a big difference between what Le Guin does and what Rowling does in terms of innovation and literary debt.

Rowling seems to have taken bits she likes from a range of sources such as The Secret of Platform 13, Charmed Life and Wizard's Hall. Whilst Le Guin is in dialogue with the field and contributing to its development and innovation Rowling is at best like a flower arranger or the maker of a mix tape wherein all the ideas are copied often with minimal if any changes from a range of sources. I dont think that makes Rowling bad but combined with pedestrian writing it does make her rather dull. I think there is nothing wrong in liking her stuff but equally if you compare it to either the work of le guin, jones or Yolen then aside from personal taste it does not hold well in terms of writing or invention.


Alexander (technogoth) | 171 comments Does Rowlings work owe debts if she's never read the books that other people say her work is similar to?

The school aspect of earthsea is a very minor and ill defined section of the book so I don't know what she could have used as a base even if she had read the book. Harry Potter was a very rich a fleshed out school drawn from the idea of fantastical British boarding school, even newts and owls are just magical equivalents or the real british school exam system.

I think peoples main problem with Harry Potter is that it was such a juggernaut of a commercial success. It destroyed previous boundaries and was not just a YA fantasy novel like so many others but had mass market appeal got people who had never read a fantasy book or any book for fun reading for the first time. Like other juggernauts 50 Shades of Grey, or the Divinci Code.

But even Rowling became a victim of HP's success. She was forced to publish a crappy book seven because of pressure from the publishers. She admitted in an interview that she would have liked to have an another year to work on the final book.


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Ken (kanthr) | 334 comments Alex, those other "juggernauts" you list are also commercially successful, but intellectually empty books.

I like Ben's description here, I think it sums up what Rowling did, and why she did it, having little to no experience with the depth of mythology accessible to her from the genre's history: "Rowling is at best like a flower arranger or the maker of a mix tape wherein all the ideas are copied often with minimal if any changes from a range of sources. I dont think that makes Rowling bad but combined with pedestrian writing it does make her rather dull"


David (dbigwood) Daran wrote: "I have to admit that I have never understood the comments Rowling made in the article that prompted LeGuinn's and Pratchett's responses. She said she didn't think she was writing fantasy. That s..."

Another tradition very strong in HP is the English School story. We, in the US, don't get much exposure to this but it has a long history in England. It appears a bit in C.S. Lewis, one of the stories starts at school with the characters being chased by bullies. It appears a bit in the Dark is Rising too, if I remember right.


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Rick | 2867 comments Alexander - a comparison of HP to 50 Shades of Grey, or the Divinci Code does not make much of a case for Potter's literary merit.

And Rowling hasn't read other books where she got these ideas? They just came to her from her imagination and they just *happened* to resemble so many previous traditions? I have this bridge I need to get rid of... want to buy it?


Alexander (technogoth) | 171 comments Kenneth wrote: "Alex, those other "juggernauts" you list are also commercially successful, but intellectually empty books.

But then that's the publishing industry isn't it? The publishing industry isn't about publishing great books its about publishing books that will sell. They all had to be good enough to attract readers and make it past the interns that guard the entrance to the publishing world. So the books can't be completely devoid of literary merit.

Rick wrote: "And Rowling hasn't read other books where she got these ideas? They just came to her from her imagination and they just *happened* to resemble so many previous traditions?"

I'm not sure what ideas you're accusing her of stealing but I've read a few hundred books and not come across anything similar to the HP books.

I don't hear people complaining the The Name of the Wind is just a rip off of The Black Magician books, and fairy folk lore.



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Rick | 2867 comments " I've read a few hundred books and not come across anything similar to the HP books."

I.... um... ok. Have you read this thread?


message 36: by Louise (last edited Feb 13, 2014 01:29PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Louise (louiseh87) | 352 comments Alexander wrote: "I've read a few hundred books and not come across anything similar to the HP books."

Have you read The Worst Witch, Wizard's Hall, The Lives of Christopher Chant or any of Terry Pratchet's books featuring the Unseen University or Tiffany Aching? They're also like every school story book I read as a child, just with a bit of magic (see Enid Blyton's Mallory Towers, or The Chalet School books for example). Orphans with magical ability is also pretty common because getting rid of the parents is often the best way to allow child characters to have full agency (e.g. The Whitby Witches, featuring an orphan boy with a sixth, magical, sense). Harry Potter is just part of a hundred year trend in children's fiction. it's not especially new.


Alexander (technogoth) | 171 comments Louise wrote: "Have you read The Worst Witch, Wizard's Hall, ..."

Apart from the Discworld novels which I love and the Narnina books which I've never read, I've never heard of any of the other books mentioned in this thread. I guess I missed out on the whole wizard kids, school based, and magic orphan books as a kid. I was more of a hardy boys and three detective fan.


Dwayne Caldwell | 141 comments Yeah but Discworld doesn't have Quidditch. Although that monkey librarian is awesome.


Daran | 599 comments I may have to retract some of my statements in this thread. I was doing something else this evening when it occurred to me out of the blue that Pratchett and LeGuin were responding to an interview from TIME in 2005. It also occurred to me that I know who the books editor for TIME was in 2005, it was Lev Grossman. It was Lev Grossman who, four years later, got LeGuin to give the original quote we've been discussing (because of a direct question about Rowling attributing other authors).

Upon further examination I can't find Rowling giving the same answers that she gives to Grossman anywhere else from that Time(get it?) to this. This makes me think this may be more about Grossman's agenda for fantasy than anything else.

Draw your own conclusions. I am admittedly biased, I disagree with New Criticism, and calling Martin the "American Tolkien"

2005 interview with Rowling (mugglenet)
http://www.mugglenet.com/jkr/intervie...

2009 interview with LeGuin (also useful for the thread on feminism in Earthsea)
http://techland.time.com/2009/05/11/a...


disastercouch | 28 comments I think when someone like Rowling claims to 'transcend' genre, what she really means is that the fantasy elements are dispensable or non essential to the story. Harry Potter is very much a traditional coming of age novel, and later teen romance, that wears fantasy tropes like a costume. A fantasist builds a self-consistent world from the ground up -- Earthsea would be a good example of this -- whereas Rowling merely takes contemporary England and comes up with a bunch of one-to-one magical equivalents for things, be they banks (gringotts), football (quidditch), or boarding schools (Hogwarts). If Rowling is unoriginal it's not because she's ripping off other fantasies, it's because her imagination goes no further than a world in which wizards drink 'butterbeer' instead of cask ale.

To me this indicates that Rowling has very little concern or respect for fantasy, and uses some fantasy tropes as a way to draw young readers into a story about Harry, Ron and Hermione as they leave home for the first time and move towards adulthood. This may enrage many fantasy trufans but it's no crime. I seem to remember George Lucas awkwardly grafting a plethora of well worn, highly unoriginal sci-fi tropes onto a certain adventure story about Luke, Han and Leia.


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Ken (kanthr) | 334 comments If anyone's calling Martin the American Tolkien, they're gravely mistaken..


message 42: by Rick (last edited Feb 14, 2014 11:00AM) (new)

Rick | 2867 comments The idea that potter could have dispensed with the fantasy elements and been the same series is laughable. It's also silly to make the argument that a fantasy book with other themes all of a sudden isn't a fantasy book simply because the same themes could be explored in another kind of story.

To be clear, the story about three friends in a coming of age novel could have been written differently as, say a kids detective novel. Voldemort becomes a killer, blah blah blah. But that novel would not have been Harry Potter. Similarly, Star Wars could easily have been done as, say, a Western. However, Potter *was* written as a fantasy series and Star Wars *was* written as a SF movie. Doing that then trying to disavow the genre reeks of classist nonsense.

Face it, what annoys is when someone writes an explicit genre novel, reaps huge rewards from that genre novel (or series in this case) and then refuses to admit its's genre as if fantasy or SF was beneath them. Let's be clear about this... Potter's fantasy elements were a core part of its success. A straight up English school story + coming of age novel would not have sold as well* and would never have had movies made if it like Potter did. For Rowling to cash checks based on works of fantasy then reject the term is, in fact, insulting to her readers.

*want to object? Then why haven't any of the other English school novels had Potter's success?


disastercouch | 28 comments I agree wholeheartedly that the fantasy elements of Potter were the gateway to its success, I am taking the cynical position that what Rowling wanted to write was a school novel and decided on a fantasy setting for purely commercial reasons. rather than coming to the fantasy setting out of a genuine love of the genre. I'm basically taking her at her word that she doesn't give a hoot about fantasy.


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Rick | 2867 comments Not caring about fantasy, though, is very different from denying that the Potter books are, in fact, fantasy. But then, Rowling happened to simply get lucky - it's incredibly unlikely she'll ever have another book sell as well aside from things like the burst of sales her pseudonymous crime novel got purely because it was outed as a JKR book.


message 45: by Alan (new) - rated it 5 stars

Alan | 534 comments Rick wrote: "... it's incredibly unlikely she'll ever have another book sell as well ..."

To be fair to her, no author has ever had sales on the level she did so equaling herself would be a pretty high bar ;)


Joshua Park (joshuapark) | 21 comments disastercouch wrote: "...Harry Potter is very much a traditional coming of age novel, and later teen romance, that wears fantasy tropes like a costume. A fantasist builds a self-consistent world from the ground up -- Earthsea would be a good example of this -- whereas Rowling merely takes contemporary England..."

15 points for disastercouch and whatever house he/she/it is from!

@Daran (25)
Yes, I refer to marketing and luck. If Rowling meant in context that she believed HP transcended fantasy at the time of writing or Harry Potter qua Harry Potter, then... here's my second theory:

JKR was ignorant of the genre as she said. Fellow aspiring writers, back me up here. When you first start writing, you're generally unread in your own genre. Editors and agents get this all the time, if the podcasts I listen to are any indication. New authors' cover letters are rife with self-comparisons to Tolkien and Heinlein and .. and... just look at the 500 page MS, enclosed!

When a new author first writes, they may know vaguely of other authors, but generally not with much depth or breadth. And they certainly believe 100% that they're original. I thought I was original when I said that my book was like LOTR, but with a strong emphasis on the characters. Yeesh. I was ignorant of the contemporary marvels that write for us brilliant magic systems, exotic settings, robust characterization, solid plots--and all on the foundation of Mignon Fogarty-approved grammar.

In Rowling's case, I think she was a new author who wrote a winner. HP was fun, as I said. With some luck and marketing it was a commercial success to boot. ULKG, I believe, had a winner with Earthsea. I had fun in that world, but of a different sort. To say that JKR would need to be well-versed in her genre to be considered a great fantasist is likely true. But to say that she would need to be so well-versed to be a success is false.


message 47: by Joshua (last edited Feb 14, 2014 11:04PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Joshua Park (joshuapark) | 21 comments Thanks for the links, Daran. Can I believe even a word of the 2005 Time article? "It's precisely Rowling's lack of sentimentality, her earthy, salty realness, her refusal to buy into the basic clichés of fantasy, that make her such a great fantasy writer. The genre tends to be deeply conservative--politically, culturally, psychologically. It looks backward to an idealized, romanticized, pseudofeudal world, where knights and ladies morris-dance to Greensleeves."

What? No it doesn't. "Deeply conservative"? Somebody call SFWA and see who you talk to! Even from inception, SFF has been about subverting the status quo. As mentioned on another Sword and Laser thread, Earthsea was bold with its choice of races for 1968.

And how do I account for the 2009 Time article, which begins:

"Which is quite amazing. Le Guin’s Earthsea novels profoundly altered my early (and also later) reading life; a lot of people I know were similarly de- and re-railed by her Hainish Cycle – - The Left Hand of Darkness et al. This is a writer who – in the 1960’s, decades before Harry Potter and all that – simply seized the patriarchal-Christian fantasy tradition laid down by Lewis and Tolkien by the scruff of its neck and reimagined it from a feminist, post-Judaeo-Christian point of view."

Earthsea is feminist? I'm sorry; I think I missed that. Actually, I think I missed the women, aside from the witch at the beginning and the gull that got eaten over Oskill.

And... Lewis was "patriarchal-Christian" in his books? When he had Lucy be the hero of the first three Narnia books, Jill the hero of the next, and the rest are fairly even-handed with Polly, Digory, a horse, and then Jill and Eustace Scrubb again. Besides, they're kids, not patriarchs. And Tolkien's message was that power corrupts. Count the corrupted patriarchs, Lev Grossman--especially the kings--and then talk!

I could continue. But look, I tend to ignore articles that seem flatly biased from the get-go. If this is where the quote came from, then how do I know the article's writer had the journalistic integrity to give us the true context and meaning of any of UKLG's quotes?

But here it is anyway, from the 2009 UKLG article, in reference to Harry Potter:

"I read the first Rowling book — more or less had to, given the superficial similarities to my work that people kept telling me about. I thought it was a nice fantasy for kids, very lively, though perhaps on rather shaky moral ground. It’s great that so many people have enjoyed her fantasies and thereby rediscovered the genre. I could wish she’d been a little more generous about admitting influences, but so what. A lot of borrowing always goes on in an active, vital art form, not plagiarism, just learning from each other. No harm in saying so."

Seems gracious and fair.


message 48: by Rick (last edited Feb 14, 2014 11:39PM) (new)

Rick | 2867 comments Rowling, a British author, just happened to write an English school novel? Yeah, right.

Basically, you've made up your own fantasy of what she knew. I find it incredibly unlikely she was entirely ignorant of fantasy but just happened to write a novel with a ton of fantasy tropes in the form of a traditional English school novel. Remember, she was 30 when she finished the first book's manuscript - this wasn't a chid writing her first novel at 15.


Daran | 599 comments I felt that if you removed the direct quotes from Rowling, the article was just Lev Grossman talking about how harry Potter was successful because it had nothing to do with Lord of the Rings.

It is also worth noting that when LeGuin is talking about Earthsea, she is talking about five books, and a half dozen short stories. While I don't think Earthsea is as feminist as a lot of her other work, the later stuff isn't as bad.


message 50: by Louise (last edited Feb 15, 2014 12:30AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Louise (louiseh87) | 352 comments Alan wrote: " Fellow aspiring writers, back me up here. When you first start writing, you're generally unread in your own genre."

Nope. The first thing you write is generally some thinly veiled carbon copy of something you've already read. Lots (I'd even hazard most) of fantasy writers start with Lord of the Rings knock off. You write a genre you know because that's what you like to read and want to read. And if you've read the right advice, you've read 100 books in that genre before ever setting pen to paper.


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