Back when the news that JK Rowling had changed her statement about the Harry Potter Encyclopedia hit, the hearts of all her most devoted fans were filled with outrage and a sense of betrayal. After all, the more beloved a particular book becomes, the more responsibility the author has to treat their readers with respect and understanding. So, here are a couple of the authors that we hate to love.
First, JK Rowling herself: the contradictions
Ever since Book 7 came out in 2007, Harry Potter fans hoped for a Rowling-written encyclopedia of Harry Potter information to fill the gap left by the series itself. Many fans hoped for extra back-story, character profiles, and answers to the myriad questions that plagued readers (Who were Harry’s grandparents? What was Snape’s patronus before it became a doe? What house does Albus Potter end up in?).
In 2008, Rowling stated that she had begun working on the project, much to the delight of Potter-lovers. Then Pottermore showed up: welcome to fans, but with nowhere near the amount of extra information that we had hoped for.
Thus, the May announcement that Rowling was definitely working on the encyclopedia (and that all proceeds would go to charity) was a welcome one indeed.
Imagine our dismay when a month later the statement changed: now she had no “firm plans” to write an encyclopedia at all. Comments on this article, like “JK Rowling is the Queen of Trolls,” and “Jo is clearly under the imperius curse,” expressed the disappointment that fans felt. Of course, we still love her, and we always will. We have the next books of Pottermore to look forward to, on top of the recently published The Casual Vacancy. Our feelings of betrayal stem from how much we love the series in the first place… but that doesn’t make them any easier to bear.
Suzanne Collins: the endings
Collins’ The Hunger Games series rivals Harry Potter in the dedication and passion of its fanbase. Especially since the arrival (and incredible popularity) of the movie, Collins’ trilogy seems like THE series of the day. However, a large group of fans find the ending of the series incredibly frustrating.
Like everyone else, these unhappy readers love the series; but they can’t help but resent Suzanne Collins for her willingness to kill off major and beloved characters at the very end of the final book. Yes, we get it, it apparently makes the books more “realistic.” Collins’ point seems to be that war is brutal, and not everyone can survive.
But some fans get the vibe that, rather than actually trying to make the story better, Collins is merely flexing her authorial muscles — trying to prove to the world that she has the balls to kill and maim her audience’s favorite characters. As a result, many of her readers wish that she had forgone her attempts at authenticity in favor of a happy ending.
The books are geared for young adults after all — readers who are probably looking for a satisfying ending, not a bittersweet one. What’s more, her other famous series, the Gregor the Overlander books (which are written for even younger readers), also has a very ambivalent conclusion. Of course, many young-adult readers do enjoy a change from the perfect, ‘fairy-tale’ endings that often appear in young-adult novels… but after three long books (or in Gregor’s case, five), many readers really just want a happy ending for at least most of their favorite characters.
Will these disgruntled fans still read anything Collins writes? Probably. But as many of Collins’ readers have discovered, pages and pages of enjoyable reading can be soured by just a few less-than-satisfactory final paragraphs.
George R. R. Martin: the wait
A Song of Ice and Fire is Martin’s most famous series, and the one upon which popular HBO show Game of Thrones is based. Both the books and the show are excellent, and choosing between them would be extremely difficult. However, the TV-watchers do have one major advantage: they know approximately when the next season is coming out! The problem with Martin’s books is not their length (approaching 1,000 pages) or the fact that he mercilessly kills off main characters without warning — it’s the wait between books.
The series, which began in 1994, was originally meant to be a trilogy. Well, book number five came out recently… and there are two more on the way!
What’s more, the wait between books keep getting longer… and longer. There was a five-year gap between books three and four — mostly because the fourth book ended up being so long that Martin had to split it into two. Then, the fifth book (which Martin had hoped to finish within the year) came out six years later.
In a series where the stakes for each and every character are very high (and many of the books end on cliff-hangers), the wait can be unbearable. Of course, Martin’s readers recognize that the he needs the time to make the extremely complex series so amazing. But waiting SIX YEARS to find out if your favorite character is actually dead or not can try anyone’s patience — as many a Martin reader has found out.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: the “death”
Conan Doyle is most famous for creating the legendary detective Sherlock Holmes. He’s also famous for killing him off… but not actually. In 1893, after years of writing Holmes stories, Conan Doyle decided it was time for his iconic character to go, famously sending him off the Reichenbach Falls to his certain death. Fans were outraged — but the author decided to move on, and move on he did. Until…
Fast-forward to 1903: 10 years after he wrote Holmes’ death, Conan Doyle decided to bring him back to life. He came up with a clever explanation for Holmes’ survival and long absence, and went on to write many more Holmes stories, much to the delight of his readers.
Why is this frustrating, you ask? After all, didn’t Conan Doyle provide us with more Holmes stories, and isn’t that a good thing? Well, of course… but Holmes’ resurrection may have had a long-reaching effect on literature as a whole: making death meaningless. After all, if a character can be killed off and then brought back on a whim, the stakes of the story are much lower.
Conan Doyle is often credited with creating the detective fiction genre, but he may also be responsible for modern-day literature’s complete disregard for actual character death. Now, rather than being a shock, the this-character-wasn’t-dead-after-all trick is clichéd and overused — and often frustrating for readers that find the “surprise” of a fake death unrewarding. Perhaps Conan Doyle is to blame!
John Green: the confines of YA literature
John Green, author of several young-adult novels such as Looking for Alaska and The Fault in Our Stars, is beloved by his readers for his intelligent, witty prose and interesting characters (as well as his successful vlog channel). However, many of his fans feel that by completely limiting himself to young-adult fiction, Green is wasting his prodigious talent.
Green has stated on several occasions that he really enjoys writing for young-adults and has no plans to write adult fiction. Of course, Green has the right to write what he wants, and he certainly writes YA fiction very well — his teenaged characters and their friendships and romances are a joy to read about.
Yet, some feel that Green’s insightful and often profound writing has the ingredients for an excellent adult novel — if only he would write it.
Yes, all of Green’s existing novels have the intellectual-weightiness that fans are looking for… but it can sometimes be harder to find when the accompanying sub-plots could include going to prom or getting to first-base. Green’s numerous fans love him and his books, and will be certainly happy with more of the same — but some of them are ready for something new as well.
These authors may make us angry, but only because we love them so much. Should readers be more forgiving when it comes to their favorite author, or is it the duty of the authors to listen to their fans’ complaints?