There is no doubt that J. K. Rowling‘s book series is definitely a wonderful phenomenon: the number of children (and adults!) who now know the value of reading a book has increased, for instance. And the whole “fantasy” genre now has substantially more visibility in the mind of the average person-in-the-street. And that’s without remembering that Twilight is fantasy. And so is Pirates Of The Carribean. And so is Star Wars.
Stories that invoke or are set in fantastical worlds have been with us for centuries. And the rise of the novel in more recent ones has been inextricably linked to Fantasy as a genre.
So I am somewhat annoyed to see that high-school students when faced with a fantasy element in their daily lives (such as me wearing a cloak on the train) fall back on Harry Potter to call it out.
When I was in high school, Harry Potter was not around. For me, the three big authors in that realm were Anne McCaffrey, David Eddings and Raymond E. Feist. The first two have now left this mortal coil, but Feist is still writing and publishing novels set in his fantasy world of Midkemia. At last count, there are more than twenty five novels, published across thirty years. Eddings also wrote more than twenty novels across a similar timeframe in at least four distinct worlds. His Belgariad is so well written and accessable it has been held up as revitalising the fantasy genre, which I find to be a not unfair comment. And McCaffrey wrote and published many many books and stories in many settings. So many in fact, that she started merging settings together (for example, did you know the Crystal Singer series is actually in the same universe as the Brain Ship books?).
And that’s just three writers. A brief discussion on Twitter the other day resulted in another four or five, most of whom published in just the last forty years: Ursula Le Guin. C. J. Cherryh. Mervyn Peake. Sheri S. Tepper. Lloyd Alexander. So why do we need to get stuck on Harry Potter? Because we shouldn’t.
There is so much more to fantasy than Harry Potter. So much more. Given a chance, who would you teach to a high-school class?