Over the weekend, Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling made a surprisingly firm remark: “I have no interest whatsoever in doing certain things that I know would be very popular with the fandom.”
The comment came during an interview with CBS Sunday Morning. “I think the fandom watching this will know exactly what I mean, ’cause they know what they keep asking me for. But there’s nothing there for me creatively, even though I know they’d all buy it,” she said.
When pressed to reveal the thing that the fandom wants, she declined to answer because she was worried about her Twitter mentions (“my Twitter feed will be a place of hell for three months if I say it, so I’m not gonna say it.”). But she did say: “There are certain things that I know I could write, and just, we’d sell millions. It has to excite me, and it doesn’t excite me. So yes. Do I care? Yes, passionately, and no, because ultimately I’ve gotta do what feeds me.”
What, exactly, is she referring to?
Let’s parse a few of her remarks to make sense of this:
- “There’s nothing there for me creatively”
- “It has to excite me”
- “They’d all buy it”
- “We’d sell millions”
- “They will know exactly what I mean”
In addition to touching on the fandom wanting certain ships to sail and stories to be told, I gather in the context of the interview transcript that she’s referring to something that would appeal to the entire fandom. She’s referring to one thing specifically. A project that would be a whole lot of work but not a lot of fun. Something that doesn’t allow her to tell a story, and thus is not creatively fulfilling.
It’s not a Marauder’s story. It’s not some Cursed Child spinoff (Sorry, SCORBUS shippers). It’s the Encyclopedia. This is the only answer that makes sense.
The Encyclopedia would “sell millions.” Even casual fans would want to buy it because it would be the resource for Harry Potter fans. But there’s nothing “there for [her] creatively” — she’d just be repurposing her notes, making them presentable to a wide audience. It’d be like a thesis — putting tons of work into a year-end project just because the teacher (or in this case, the fans) say it’s required.
There’s just one problem — one reason why this might not be about the Encyclopedia. As I wrote back in July, she’s said on several occasions that it would be coming (and in 2007 she estimated it’d arrive in 2017). But she’s been silent about it for years now, and it makes me think that she’s seriously changed her mind about it because “there’s nothing there for [her] creatively.” As many people have come to suspect, Pottermore is the Encyclopedia.
Prioritizing the quality of her Mentions tab VS updating fans on what she’s previously promised — WTF?
It seems weird to avoid saying something just because it will temporarily make the Mentions tab of your Twitter app messier than I’m sure it already is. Once you tell everyone it’s not happening, we’ll stop asking and wondering about it. Yes, there will be people complaining for a while. Yes, it will be annoying to scroll through. No, it won’t be any worse than the political tweets that people probably hurl at you.
If it truly is the Encyclopedia that she’s referring to, it’s frankly unfair to not tell us. She’s strongly hinted on no less than four occasions that it would be happening. You got people’s hopes up. The idea became “very popular” because you told us it was happening. So why not say once and for all that it isn’t?
This used to be the type of thing that Jo would address one way or the other on her website. I miss those days.
I want to leave this on a good note: In the same interview J.K. Rowling does say she cares about what the fans want. And I like the way she puts it:
“I always go back to readers. So the fact that people love the books, and the movies as well, and that those stories meant so much to so many people, that is everything to me. No writer is gonna tell you differently. I have phenomenal love and respect for those people. Forget the material side; they gave me a sense of belonging, actually, and purpose that I’m not sure I had had before. Because it turned out I could tell a story. That’s all I’d ever wanted to do in my life. And they, in their enthusiasm, gave me that. So yes, I care hugely.”
But it takes two to tango, and she ain’t up for that Encyclopedia dance.