News round-up: Judge finds Harry Potter complex, and more.

[22 April 2008]

By Nikki Tranter

Steven Vander Ark

Steven Vander Ark

Judge in Potter case isn’t a fan
Judge Robert Patterson, heading up the case involving J.K. Rowling’s attempt to stop publication of a Harry Potter lexicon guide, thinks Rowling writes gibberish.

The Age reports he was overheard telling a witness he found the books “complex”.

I’m adoring this story more and more. I’m absolutely on Ms. Rowling’s side—these are her creations and if she doesn’t want Steven Vander Ark to put out what she considers a great plundering of her work, that’s up to her. Still, this whole case is just becoming a bit of a comedy.

In this article, Vander Ark is reported as sobbing as he spoke of being a “pariah within the Harry Potter community”, and almost no news source can resist comparing Vander Ark to Potter himself. The comparison, truth be told, is rather unsettling.

And then there’s the melodrama of the whole thing. The Wall Street Journal recently carried this quote from Rowling: “Should my fans be flooded with a surfeit of substandard books—so-called lexicons—I’m not sure I’d have the will or heart to continue.”

I wonder why she’s up in arms about this one, when there are already heaps of these books around—field guides, idiot guides, trivia books, etc. I’d say the flood is already beyond her control.

Dan Barker likes choice
Barker discusses the amount of books published per year, and how he decides which ones to read:

Of course, nothing says we have to read every book, and we should remember that most of those are aimed at specific niche markets like business industries, come from little-known or even disreputable publishers or are the result of self-publishing. Their value may be limited or nil, although there are some great self-published books out there.

Apparently, Dan can speed read, and is going to discuss the pros and cons of that process in a future column. I will be looking out for that. I’m wondering—is speed-reading like watching movies in fast-forward? You get the gist, but not the meat? I guess we’ll find out soon.

Joanne Harris like anchovy toast and Korean horror films
Harris, author of Chocolat, reveals other wacky things in the Independent‘s mini-interview.

Karen Joy Fowler likes Jimmy Smits and Veronica Mars
Fowler tells Reuters she enjoyed the film version of The Jane Austen Book Club, and based her latest book, Wit’s End, on her experience traversing Veronica Mars fansites and blogs.

I was struck with how unhappy the fans were with the writers. The fans were outraged when the writers who made the characters up didn’t seem to have the same sense of who those characters were. I thought it was fascinating how much ownership the fans felt over the characters, and their need to protect them from the people who’d actually made them up.

Wit’s End features a novelist concerned about the levels to which her fans are directing her stories.

The book’s plot reminds me of the time Aaron Sorkin got so pissy at a website that criticized elements of his The West Wing that he wrote the site into the show (episode “The US Poet Laureate”), and bashed it.

Interestingly, the same website was embraced by Veronica Mars creators who apparently used it to find out exactly what the fans wanted from the show. I don’t know what I think of that. It’s interesting on the one hand, but who wants to put the fate of these beloved characters into the hands of some forum posters? Imagine if movie producers asked the same thing on posters at the IMDb? It’s the stuff of nightmares.

At least, I guess, the blogs stop fans from kidnapping and hobbling authors to get what they want.

Bill Bryson hates litter
Bryson is heading up the Campaign to Protect Rural England, which wants tougher penalties for litterbugs. The BBC quotes Bryson:

I think what’s happened here is that people are leading different lifestyles. People are eating on the run now and increasingly dispensing of the packaging out of the car windows but we are clearing it up as if it was 25 years ago … Litter is becoming the default condition of the countryside. It is time that we—all of us—did something about it. The landscape is too lovely to trash.

James Patterson likes giving new authors a chance to make money, but not necessarily to be creative
Patterson tells the Palm Beach Daily News all about his new book, Sunday at Tiffany’s, co-written with children’s author Gabrielle Charbonnet. We’ve discussed before at Re:Print how Patterson “co-writes”—he comes up with an outline, describing exactly what must go into each and every chapter. Then he passes that outline along to a new or aspiring writer and has them flesh it all out.

In this article, the author reveals how the new writer will do one draft, hand it back, and Patterson will complete the final drafts before submitting to the publisher.

So, what does that other writer do exactly?

On criticism of this method, the Daily News report continues:

“We’re hung up in this country about individualism,” said Patterson, who compares his collaborative process for writing novels to the traditionally accepted manner in which film and television writers develop their products. “Why can’t a book be created this way?” Of course, with his celebrated status and reputation for enormous sales, it’s also a means for Patterson to give a lesser-known or aspiring writer an opportunity to break into the best-seller league — and earn what he describes as a “nice” amount of money.

He wants me to hate him, right?

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