In Which I Talk About Black Hermione

There’s a play in the works about Harry Potter & Co. as adults, and we’ve recently seen the casting for the main roles:

Jamie Parker, Noma Dumezweni and Paul Thornley will lead the cast as Harry, Hermione and Ron when Cursed Child opens in London’s west end next summer.

J.K. Rowling told Pottermore: ‘I’m so excited with the choice of casting for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. I can’t wait to see Jamie, Noma and Paul bring the adult Harry, Hermione and Ron to life on stage next summer.’

No one seems to have anything to say about Jamie Parker or Paul Thornley (actually there’s a little bit of chatter regarding Thornley as Ron Weasley, but I won’t deal with that here), but there’s been a predictably high volume of opinion-sharing about Noma Dumezweni playing Hermione.

I say “predictably high volume” because Ms. Dumezweni is a black lady from Swaziland, and there are a lot of people who think Hermione Granger should not be cast with a black actress. JKR disagrees. JKR seems to think it’s totally fine for Ms. Dumezweni to play Hermione.

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Hatchette Book Group continues to gouge us.

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They just made me pay $14.99 for the ebook of Career of Evil. There is no reason on Earth why a fiction ebook should cost that much. The only reason for Hatchette to charge that price for a novel is: “Because we can fucking get away with it.”

Come the revolution, the executives at Hatchette will be first against the wall.

Until then, I need to catch up with Cormoran and Robin. If some juicy filming news for Game of Thrones comes up, and I seem a bit distracted in responding to it, this is why.

The Silkworm: “Ack! My eyes!”

Having read and enjoyed The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith aka JK Rowling, I bought The Silkworm on Thursday morning and finished reading it late last night. It’s an interesting book to read, as a writer, because it’s all about publishing industry politics. Owen Quine, the missing man whom Cormoran Strike is hired to track down, is a mostly unsuccessful novelist who has been way more trouble than he’s worth to everyone who has to work with him. The characters who come in to bend Strike’s ear about what may or may not have happened to Quine are either the missing man’s wife, Leonora, who hired Strike in the first place, or they’re involved in publishing, whether traditional or indie.

One of the characters under investigation is Quine’s mistress, a self-publishing writer named Kathryn Kent, and at first, I was a bit annoyed at Galbraith/Rowling for how she portrayed Kent. My attitude was basically: “That’s how you choose to portray a self-publisher? Really? Some of us write decent books and use appropriate grammar, you know!” But then I realized that The Silkworm was full of characters involved in publishing, and they’re all assholes. If I were a traditionally published author, I wouldn’t want to be represented as Owen Quine or Michael Fancourt. If I were a publisher, I wouldn’t want to be seen as Daniel Chard or Christian Fisher. I sure hope most literary agents aren’t nearly as unpleasant as Liz Tassel. The only character in the publishing world of The Silkworm who is both good at his job and a mostly decent person is the editor, Jerry Waldegrave, who is also a drunken train wreck. It’s like, nobody can be a part of the literary world for long without being either a shameless opportunist, a predator, an egotistical bigot, or a self-destructive mess. We go through all these unsympathetic characters, and then Strike and his assistant, Robin, take us for a sit-down with Kathryn Kent, and she seems like one of the least offensive of the lot.

Overall, I think what bugs me the most about the portrayal of Kathryn Kent is that the book shows us her blog posts word for word, with all their apostrophe abuse, random capitalization and cringe-inducing typos. Sure, there are plenty of people in the real world who do even worse than that and still manage to write books, but do we really need to see that from a writer who knows better? And a professional editor working for a major publishing house? When I buy a book to read, I expect it to be a refuge from sloppy typing, your/you’re confusion and apostrophes in plurals.

Yeah, I’d see that.

Folks, I would totally stand in line and pay for a ticket to see a West End show about the early life of Harry Potter. It might even be a good excuse to save up for another trip to London.

Moreover, how much fun would it be to write that play? Those playwrights get to write fan fiction about wee Harry, and they get to consult with JKR while they do it. That is the perfect life, right there.

Observation about technology

The whole point of Amazon Cloud Reader is so that you can read a Kindle book at work without being seen looking at your Kindle. If you just wanted to read Kindle books on your home computer without buying an e-reader, you’d use the Kindle App. There’s one for pretty much any device you might carry around. (Though not for my phone, because my phone is worthless and weak.) The Cloud Reader is all about reading a book at your desk while your boss isn’t looking. Those crafty mofos at Amazon think of everything.

On that note, I finished The Casual Vacancy this morning. It is a powerful book, but let’s get something straight here: when JKR said she was writing a book for grown-ups, she was not kidding. If you’re looking for something you might read aloud to a 12-year-old, this is definitely not recommended. The adult themes contained herein include, but are not limited to: poverty, heroin addiction, child abuse, rape, racism, classism, sexism, bullying, self-injury, underage drinking, marital infidelity, mental illness aaaaaand pedophilia! Welcome to Pagford, motherfuckers!

 

The question is why I haven’t finished already.

I am enjoying the fuck out of The Casual Vacancy. I still am not a fan of the cover but the story is riveting. I was prepared to be unimpressed, to find that JKR doesn’t write grown-up fiction very well, but so far? She knows what she’s doing. The fact that I am able to sit there and read it for hours at a time is a good sign that a) the book is pretty damn awesome, and b) that I am getting better.

 

You know, I actually think Hatchette is fucking with us.

E!Online shows us the cover of J.K. Rowling’s new grown-up book, and to be honest, I think it’s pretty damn ugly.

I’m fairly sure the book will not use Jo’s picture on the front.

I have a board on Pinterest called Book Cover Examples, in which I analyze what works (or doesn’t) about certain book covers I’ve poached from Goodreads. I’m afraid this cover doesn’t tell me much about the story inside except that the residents of Pagford identify as Gryffindors and have terrible taste in retro art. It kind of looks like Hatchette recently fired their graphic designer and had to replace hir with someone who couldn’t get accepted to art school. And before anyone tells me not to throw stones, I’ll point out that I don’t live in anywhere near the same kind of glass palace as J.K. Rowling. We’re talking about the woman who is probably the most successful author currently alive, working with a publishing house that thinks it’s okay to charge $19.99 for an ebook. The Scholastic covers on the Harry Potter series were beautiful and descriptive. The Bloomsbury covers were not quite as esthetically coherent, but they showed us a little of what was going on inside. This one is just…”Look, everyone! Flat primary colors and a pretentious retro cursive font!”

I think they’re trying to emulate the esthetic feel of The Marriage Plot, which at least gives us the wedding ring element but is still rather ugly. But even above that, I think Hatchette is trying to see what they can get away with. I think they know perfectly well that The Casual Vacancy is going to fly off the shelves simply because it has Rowling’s name on the cover, and they’re phoning in the cover because they can.

However, if they’re going to charge $19.99 for the goddamn Kindle version, I think they can afford to hire a better cover designer.

Hatchette Book Group, you are out of your minds.

J.K. Rowling has written a new book for adults! This is awesome.

This, however, is not awesome:

I do not believe Jo approved this price point.

They want us to pay $20 for a goddamn ebook? Really?! It’s only $1 less than the freaking hardcover.

I’m sure Hatchette Book Group thinks that by overpricing the ebook, they will encourage more customers to buy the print version because with prices like that, they might as well. They may be right. It may also inspire some crafty geeks to ninja their way through the DRM and paste the entire text online for free, thus cutting a wide swath through Hatchette’s profits. I don’t expect Jo to give away her writing for free (although somehow I don’t think this markup was her idea), but there is no way in which this pricing makes sense. They’re charging this much because they can. They’re a traditional publisher, they’ve got JKR, and they can get away with it.

It would be nice to think they’re going to take those absurd profits and use them to publish some risky literary fiction by obscure authors who otherwise wouldn’t get a book deal in the industry’s increasingly risk-averse climate, but somehow, I don’t think that money’s going to trickle down very far.

“It’s not the money, it’s the message.” Of course it’s the money.

A second reason, however, was that I am indebted to the British welfare state; the very one that Mr Cameron would like to replace with charity handouts. When my life hit rock bottom, that safety net, threadbare though it had become under John Major’s Government, was there to break the fall. I cannot help feeling, therefore, that it would have been contemptible to scarper for the West Indies at the first sniff of a seven-figure royalty cheque. This, if you like, is my notion of patriotism. On the available evidence, I suspect that it is Lord Ashcroft’s idea of being a mug.

JK Rowling explains why she pays taxes.