Monday, April 23, 2012

Harry Potter Fanfiction.

This has been moved, modified and expanded upon, from my page. This was the only other extended piece I had on there, any other pontifications upon Fanfiction that show up here, will be entirely original to this blog. For those interested, my screen name on, is LordsFire, I'll come up immediately if you do an author search for me there.

Harry Potter:

This series, while one of the most commercially successful book series ever, is oddly enough, also one of the more poorly written. Rowling's series sells on a few things; engaging writing, an interest-grabbing premise, and well-written characters, for a children's story. On the flip side, starting with book four, when she started trying to transition the series from a children's series, to a young adult series, the entire thing began to fall apart. Her characters never experience character growth, of any sort, ever, until the very end of the story, if then. The sheer power of magic within the world presents so many different ways to simply break the world, many explored in fanfiction, it's not even funny. Mixing real-world, non-magical techniques and equipment with this allows even more breakage. The Death Eaters, Aurors, and Order of the Phoenix all fight like poorly organized and hideously under-trained militia; I would bet on a single platoon of British Marines that were Squibs, versus all of them combined, primarily because the well-trained soldiers would gather intelligence on the enemy, use fire and maneuver tactics, cover, indirect fire, ambush tactics, a whole host of things that would completely dominate the sorts of fights that show up in Harry Potter. Also, Snipers. I'm not even going to begin to go into all the other plot holes in the series, there are simply too many that are too egregious.

As to the characters of the series; at the end of the first novel Hermione is a bookworm who has an uncommon amount of respect for authority, Ron is a slacker average joe who really just wants to have fun and is not suited for life-or-death struggles, and Harry is a protagonist who is so absurdly passive it's ridiculous. At the end of the seventh novel (sans epilogue), Hermione is a bookworm who has an uncommon amount of respect for authority, Ron is an average joe who is too much of a slacker to be suited for life-or-death situations, and Harry has arguably, possibly, experienced some genuine character growth when he chose to go confront Voldemort and take the initiative for like the second or third time ever in the series. Even though that was a horrible plot-mandated occurrence.

Ironically, it's the peripheral characters who experience character growth. Neville becomes courageous. The twins become responsible enough to run their own business. Tonks and Lupin get married. Ginny goes from a terminally shy fangirl to a fairly average teenage girl (but a fairly average teenage girl isn't really a very interesting character, honestly).
As to romantic crap; Harry Potter is probably the single most flame-ridden fandom for romances; primarily Harry/Ginny versus Harry/Hermione. In all seriousness, as best I can tell most of that comes from incredibly crappy Harry/Ginny fics rather obviously written by people who have no idea how a serious relationship works, and gave the cannon pairing a bad rap. Since I first wrote this rant, I've also uncovered a great wealth of incredibly crappy Harry/Hermione fics, so yeah. In all honesty, I don't think any of the main characters show enough maturity in the cannon to be in a real romantic relationship, so think the entire shipping wars are even more absurd than they are in other places. I also notice that Harry Potter fanfics tend to have people writing 'romances' starting at absurdly young ages, even more so than many other fandoms. That said, any sufficiently well written romantic story, I can read and enjoy, though in my personal experience there are more well written Harry/Hermion stories, than Harry/Ginny stories. Even if there are as many badly written stories for each ship.

My final thoughts on the series primarily concern Severus Snape. From what I have heard, most of the ridiculous fascination with his character as a 'good guy' comes from an incredible actor being cast into the role, and delivering a commanding performance. I've never watched the movies. I've seen snippets here and there, but never more than a minute or so at length, and don't think I've seen a single scene with Snape in it. So my opinion of him is based entirely upon the books, and that opinion is very simple:
The man is scum. He systematically uses his position of authority to blatantly favor crass bullies, and pick on an already-abused child, for his resemblance to his (dead) father. The man's pettiness is obscene, and as many fanfics have portrayed, he would be summarily fired by any school administrator with a shred of sense. He is not, however, a complete monster, as he does try to protect the lives of his students, even those he hates, even if he makes them a living hell. However, not being a complete monster is far from enough to make him a worthwhile teacher, or someone who should be around children at all. In the end, I think his character is another result of the children's/young adult's series switch, in the children's series, he was the arbitrary untrustworthy adult authority figure, to contrast with Dumbledore as the trustworthy authority figure, and McGonagall as the useless authority figure. Once it became a young adult series though, he becomes something much more offensive.

Ironically, Snape and Voldemort, being villains (Snape possibly an anti-villain), are the two most well-developed characters in the series, as Rowling went to the trouble to give detailed backstories explaining their character and motivations. Harry is, also ironically, the shallowest character, as he lacks basically any depth or growth whatsoever for pretty much the entire series. If you want more on Harry as a character, have a look at Brutal Harry, my novel-length fanfic covering a more realistic reaction on Harry's response to the Dursley's abuse. Be warned, it starts out pretty dark, as I was making a point via extreme in the prologue.

All in all, if the series had stuck to being a children's series, the overly-done villainy of some characters, and myriad plot holes would be plentifully forgivable, but as it tried to transit into more "serious" material, the cohesion of the story simply falls apart. I would, however, very muchly like to see Rowling write more, either as a series started in a Young Adult or Adult age-bracket, or purely children's material. She does have strengths as an author, even if the latter part of her series was torn down under its weaknesses.

As a note, Rowling does have a new book, aimed at older audiences, coming out later this year. I can't remember the name, but I'm looking forward to seeing how she's grown as a writer. Hopefully, she's at least heard some of the thoughts coming out of the fanfic community. Once you sort out the dregs, there's some good stuff in it.

1 comment:

  1. You've hit the nail on the head. For years now, I've been telling people that only the first 3 books of the Harry Potter series are worth their weight in gold. The fourth book is plain vanilla and beyond that, it's a forgettable experience.

    The odd thing is, I've never really noticed the difference in target audience as the books went by. Quite possibly, the reason I like the first 3 HP books so much is because they ARE good children's books. The rest of them ... meh.

    This will be a very boring comment if I just go around agreeing with everything you say, so let me ask this - what do you think of Snape by the end of the third (or possibly fourth) book? He's still comes off as a "villain", but I do not think of him as scum. A bad teacher yes, but a competent one.

    Regarding shipping, that just came out of the blue for me. Even upto the sixth book, I couldn't detect much of any romance between any of the main characters. There IS a lot of friendship between them, but romance? Couldn't feel it.