An Unexpected Potter Pilgrimage

I recently visited a friend of mine in Edinburgh, and although I didn’t know much about the city beforehand, I did remember it being mentioned in relation to J.K. Rowling. In particular, I’d heard there was a café there where she wrote parts of the first Harry Potter book. So when my friend asked if there was anything specific I wanted to do, I mentioned that I’d quite like to stroll by. I didn’t really expect anything too impressive or Potter-ish, though – it was just a café, after all.

Fortunately, my friend turned out to be far more knowledgable about Rowling and the history of the books than I am. She took me not just to the café, but to many other Potter-related places. I admit, I had trouble concealing my fangirl excitement. For some reason I had not expected Rowling to have drawn so much inspiration from the city around her, and in such obvious ways.

I’m sure many fans know these things already, but I thought I’d share a few pictures and details for any who, like me, have hitherto remained oblivious to their existence: Continue reading

How My Dad Ended Up in a Potter Queue

Okay, so this is going to be a bit of a short post this week, but I wanted to write about something that happened to my dad recently because I found it amusing, and because Father’s Day is coming up this Sunday (in Australia anyway). Continue reading

Books That Made Me Cry: Fantasy, Sci-fi and Dystopian Tearjerkers

Last week I wrote about how I generally find movies to be bigger tearjerkers than books, and discussed why they so easily make me cry. However, there are still several books that have prickled my eyes or had me in tears. So today I thought I would pay tribute to each of those well-crafted emotional tales. Continue reading

Are Movies Bigger Tearjerkers Than Books?

When it comes to books and movies, I would dub myself a moderate-to-heavy crier. There are highly sensitive people who cry at the drop of a hat, and there are steely never-criers who could count on one hand the things that moistened their eyes. I’d say I’m somewhere in the middle, leaning toward the quick-to-cry end of the scale.

So the other day on Facebook group when someone asked the question “which books made you cry? ” it got me thinking. Continue reading

Are They Really Dead? 5 Kinds of False Deaths in Fantasy

When a favourite character dies in a fantasy novel, movie or TV show, our sense of sadness or shock is often tempered by that niggling question that immediately presents itself… are they really dead?

And we can’t be blamed for asking it. Continue reading

Growing up with Harry: What It Was like to Be a Teen During the Potter Craze

When I was 12 years old, my godfather gifted me a book. It looked terribly uninteresting. The title – Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – evoked memories of Oliver Twist, a story I had never much liked. The cover – a black and white photo of a steam train – looked even drearier. I imagined it would be an autobiography of a poor English boy living near train tracks, or on a train. Boring.

Despite my godfather’s assurances it was “becoming quite popular in Europe” and that his children had liked it, I resolved not to read it. Continue reading

Genre is Not a Dirty Word

I’ve encountered quite a few fantasy and science fiction authors – famous and popular ones at that – who, when asked about their decision to write in the genre, say something along the lines of “oh, well, I just write what I write and someone slots it into a genre later, I don’t think about what genre I want to write in”. There’s often this additional implication that ‘genre’ is a dirty word – that is the oppressive tool of publishers and bookshops. Books get hemmed in and categorised by this evil notion of genre, and their authors get pigeon-holed as ‘fantasy writers’ or ‘crime writers’.

Frankly, I never understand this. I love the word genre.  Continue reading

History in the Potterverse and Other Magical Worlds

If you’ve read the Harry Potter series, the name Bathilda Bagshot might be familiar to you. You may even recognise her as the author of Hogwarts, a History, a book to which Harry’s friend Hermione regularly refers in the series. Whenever the characters need to know something about the ancient castle they go to school in, Hermione is there, spouting “historical” facts from Bagshot’s work to help them solve their problems.

Continue reading

The Book Was Better: Watching vs Reading Fantasy

It’s not uncommon to hear people complain that a film didn’t do justice to the book it was based on. Maybe you’ve even been the person doing the complaining. I know I have.

Sometimes a film version of a book just flat-out disappoints. Sometimes it highlights all the wrong parts, or cuts out your favourite bits, or is badly acted, or poorly shot, or presents the climactic moments in a way that drains them of all tension. Of course on the flip side, some film renditions can be great, and there are several out there that have delighted fans.

However, my intention here is not to bemoan the flaws and strengths of various film adaptations. Rather, I’d like to acknowledge something that I think will always affect our reception of book-to-film adaptations: Continue reading

Talking Trees… and Other Sentient Vegetation

I have a friend who cannot stand talking trees in fiction.

Talking animals are fine, and she’s happy to accept a whole range of other incongruous fantasy logic (for example, werewolves that turn back into humans and still have their clothes on). But trees that talk, or walk, or are in any way sentient? She finds them stupid. And a bit creepy.  Continue reading