27 September 2012

The Burden of Rowling's 'Vacancy'

I'm unsure why anyone would call JK Rowling's newest novel, The Casual Vacancy, a "daring leap." For me, I applaud any popular author who boldly decides to do something different. With the huge success of her Harry Potter franchise, the British born author could have done anything. Or nothing.

Instead of diving into the same genre, instead of going to the well one more time, Rowling took a left turn into proper adult fiction -even at a time when Young Adult fiction written by established adult authors are all the rage. 

For me, the idea that Rowling went and did not what her fans wanted, but what she wanted is very liberating for me in a field of popular fiction that has de-evolved over the last 45 years. I've seen too many authors who found success in one genre -in particular, fantasy- and then thought that writing in another genre was better. Ann Rice found a huge success with her vampire series, only to discover that when she wrote novels that did not pertain to that universe, her fans ignored her. While her witches series was successful, it did not match the sensation of Lestat. 

Terry Brooks broke into the fantasy genre with his Shannara series back in the late 1970's. After completing that series, he tried his hand at other dark fantasy, only to find his audience was not as receptive (and he seems to have retconned his World/Void trilogy into the Shannara legend). He now publishes exclusively the Shannara series, which includes prequels and sequels and has expanded to well over 25 novels.

Nature adorers a vacuum as the saying goes, and I think authors need to expand their universe in ways the reader needs to accept. Rowling choice to set a side another series of novels set in the Harry Potter universe and write something that will appeal only to adults is a brilliant move.

It may succeed, it may fail. But the burden, as I see it, is not on her, but the adult fans of her Harry Potter series. We need to step-up and (until she decides to return or never return) that Rowling is writing books she wants to write. That she won't let her fans dictate what she'll produce next.

I find that very striking and acceptable. 

No one has to read The Casual Vacancy (I will), but we must consent to the idea that Harry Potter may be finished for good. And Rowling is at a point in her life that -whether this passes or fails- she has enough money NOT to care what people will say about this latest novel.

So you, the fans, should not care as well.

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