Vol. 3, Issue 18, July 26, 2005
Disgruntled Harry Potter Fan Releases "Corrected" Version of Book
A disgruntled Harry Potter fan has released a "corrected" version of J.K Rowling's latest installment in the series, The Half-Blood Prince, prompting a storm of curiosity and support from many fans who disliked the direction of the story in the book. It has also, not surprisingly, prompted a storm of legal activity from Rowling's publishers.
"Whenever an author puts a work out into the universe, it is no longer their exclusive property anymore," said Mary Sue Pembroke, who is credited as the author of the modified book. "Harry Potter belongs to all of us, not just Rowling. She took some liberties with the story in this latest book that really weren't faithful to the logic of the narrative. My version is, I think it fair to say, much more faithful to the true Harry Potter mythos."
Rowling's book sold a record 9 million copies in Britain and the United States in the first 24 hours after its release. Despite the book's remarkable popularity, however, many fans were disappointed when the narrative did not follow their favorite predictions, in particular regarding romantic relationships between key characters.
"Rowling seems to think the relationships she's described in Half-Blood Prince were clearly telegraphed in previous books," sniffed Pembroke. "All I can say is, if that's what she thinks, she clearly doesn't understand Harry Potter like I do."
This is not the first time a fan has created a story based on an author's setting; so-called fanfiction is a popular pursuit across the internet. This is, however, the first time a fan story has captured a sizeable portion of the author's audience: over 800,000 fans have downloaded the book, many openly hostile to J.K. Rowling's narrative decisions in the most recent book.
"Rowling actually said in a recent interview that she felt the romantic arc of her characters was "obvious," fumed Pembroke. "Excuse me, but I don't need her to tell me about who should pair up with whom."
Pembroke's version involves a new romance for Harry with an exchange student from America whose physical description is remarkably close to the picture on her website. The new character, who rapidly rises to the top of her class, has a mysterious scar on her forehead similar to Harry's famous lightning bolt. She is also an "animagus" who can assume the form of a talking winged unicorn.
"If you read the earlier books deeply, if you understand the mythology and the deeper messages like I do, you'd realize that the narrative really leads up to Harry finding this remarkable soul-mate," said Pembroke with a dreamy expression on her face.
Scholastic Publishing has obtained an injunction against Pembroke and has threatened a lawsuit, but has been unable to take the site offline due to a number of overseas mirror sites.
"What we are seeing here is simply the most visible facet of the fanfiction phenomenon," said Rudy Stoltz, professor of comparative literature at Duke University. "The notion of copyright is relatively recent; throughout much of Western literary history, authors have felt free to reinterpret existing material, leading to the creation of some very sophisticated literary cycles. However, this is the first instance I'm aware of in which an author's creation has been hijacked before its completion, so to speak."
"Once a narrative is written down is may be tumbled about anywhere among those who may or may not understand them, and know not to whom they should reply, to whom not," added S. O'Crates, from the University of Phaedrus. "However that is if the narratives have no author to protect them; then they cannot protect or defend themselves. That is not the case for Rowling: we have an author here, still writing, willing and able to answer questions in interviews, whose interpretation of her own work is simply being disputed."
"The only way for an author to keep a piece of writing completely their own is to never have it published," insisted Pembroke. "J.K. Rowling, you asked for this."