hymnia: (Shigure reading)
Almost any book worth reading is a dangerous book. I once knew a young man who jumped off a roof and broke his leg after reading the Harry Potter books. It seems he wanted to test himself for latent magical abilities, like Neville's relatives did to him when he was a kid, trying to prove that he wasn't a Squib. (This young man had high-functioning Downs Syndrome; he was bright enough to read Harry Potter, but lacked a clear understanding of the line between reality and fantasy.)

Books have the power to shape our ideas, for good or ill. Speculative fiction may have even greater power because it is not bounded by the limits of the real world. Of course, not everyone who reads Harry Potter will respond the way this young man did—the vast majority will not. But the ideas contained in books—whether ideas intentionally worked into the themes of the story by the author or not—will inevitably interact with our own, and shifts in understanding can take place. Stories may challenge our beliefs, or they may confirm and solidify them—or perhaps they will affect them in more oblique ways. Either way, whenever we encounter good story-telling, it is unlikely we will walk away unchanged.

This is not a bad thing, of course. In fact, I think this is how any well-told story should be. I don't reject books because I consider them “dangerous”. In fact, I think the word could be applied to almost any of my favorite books, and certainly to the ones I recommend most. “Read this book. It will change you.” Haven't you ever recommended a book to someone that way? But because I know they can have a powerful influence on our beliefs—and by extension, how we live our lives—I do think carefully about what books I pass on to others, and under what circumstances. Some books I may recommend only to certain people, like the series I will discuss in a moment. Some I may recommend while expressing reservations or adding disclaimers. (The Twilight books come immediately to mind.) With children and teens, there are a lot of books I would prefer to share and discuss with them, rather than just setting them loose unguided. (I feel this way about much of the Bible, as well as a lot of classic works). And, though I can't think of any off the top of my head (at least not any I actually finished reading), there may be some books I wouldn't pass on to anyone under any circumstances.

Some time ago on Mark Reads I caused a bit of a stir by saying that I wouldn't recommend Philip Pullman's YA fantasy trilogy His Dark Materials to young people. Why not? In essence, I feel that the series co-opts the thrill of numinous experience through its fantasy setting and inspiring characters and utilizes this thrill for such a harshly anti-Christian and anti-God message that I cannot support putting the books in the hands of people who I feel are likely to accept that message too easily and uncritically.

I have recommended the books to adult readers, especially fellow Christians, for the purpose of examining challenges to the faith and discussing the implications of them. There's no doubt they are well-written, highly engaging books with many elements and themes that appeal to a broad audience, including young people. And I would even say that I agree with some of the themes—themes like embracing the pursuit of knowledge and sacrificing one's own immediate happiness for long-term goals and greater good. But there are a couple of points that I object to strongly, and the fact that the books are well-written and contain some positive themes make me feel all the more compelled to avoid endorsing them. It's like hiding poison in a delicious chocolate cake.

I don't support censorship. However, I think there will always be some tendency by human institutions run by humans to have a certain bias in what information we select or include in our media and communication materials. People in certain positions in a free society—librarians at public libraries, for example—have a responsibility to repress their inclinations to “select out” that which they disagree with (and maybe also to “select in” that which they wish to promote) to a degree that could reasonably be considered censorship. Were I in such a position, I wouldn't “select out” HDM from the shelves of YA fantasy fiction. There is no doubt that it belongs there.

But does that same idea apply to my position as a classroom teacher? I don't believe it does. The books I place on my classroom bookshelves are: 1) obviously not meant to be a comprehensive collection of YA books, and 2) could be viewed as receiving my personal endorsement. Therefore, I have chosen not to put the HDM books on my classroom bookshelves.

Finally, I wouldn't dream of forbidding or even discouraging a teen who is already inclined to pick up the HDM books from doing so. I'm not as dumb as Professor Umbridge, after all! I might—if in a situation where it is appropriate to offer some guidance—encourage her to search out the underlying themes and ideas Pullman might be trying to promote, and to think carefully about whether or not she agrees with them, and what other viewpoints there might be. I might even articulate some of those other viewpoints.

Censorship is not the right approach to "dangerous books". People have the right to access information and ideas--even if others dislike those ideas or the effects they might produce. However, I believe that in a free society people also have the right to make selections about what information and ideas we personally endorse.

hymnia: (Remus/Tonks)
The Harry Potter shipping war has, I think, forever changed the way I look at romantic subplots in any fiction I consume. Meet cute. UST. Show, don't tell. I learned these things from HP fandom, and primarily from the shipping debate corner of fandom. Now I find myself analyzing the ways in which writers do—or don't—signal romantic vibes between characters in all the fiction I come across with much more attention than I did before.

One common complaint I see across the many fandoms I've come to know since then—whether I dived in completely or just stuck in a toe—is that a canon pairing doesn't have enough “development”. And I want to take a moment to contest that complaint—not for any particular case, but as a general rule. That's not to say that I think such a complaint could never be valid. But I think it is a tired, overused complaint that often doesn't really take into account the full scope of what the author is trying to do.

The first problem with the complaint is that it doesn't take into account the role of romance in the story. If you're reading Twilight or watching Letters to Juliet your complaint about lack of development between a romantic pair would have more validity than if your media of choice is, say, The Lord of the Rings or Naruto. Romance clearly plays a larger role in some stories than in others; you can't expect an author to spend loads of time developing a romance when there's, for example, a war going on. Especially if the characters involved are supporting characters in a large cast. But even if one or both members of the pairing is a protagonist, only so much time can be devoted to the protagonist's romance.

The second problem is that “developing” a romantic subplot in a story where romance has a relatively small role requires tying it to the main plot, or at least to a larger plot line. Hogwarts doesn't have a school dance every year; instead, they have a special Yule Ball that is part of the Triwizard tournament and connects Harry's competitors in the tournament more closely to Harry and his friends. In HBP, the clues that Remus and Tonks like each other are hidden among general news from the war. This limits the amount of information that can be provided about each couple's interactions.

Often those who cry out for “development” will point to examples of stories in which the protagonist and his/her love interest—or else two co-protagonists—share some adventure and through it fall in love. That's all well and good as far as it goes. But it's unfair to expect every adventure story to take that route. This is where I, personally, appreciate a little touch of realism. In some stories, the protagonist pairs off with someone that they meet later in their adventure, or someone they left behind who didn't get to come on the adventure. Or perhaps two supporting characters who only interact a little bit on-screen or on-page while the adventure is going on pair off at some point. The fact is, these examples are much closer to the reality of how people meet and fall in love. The Speed method of romance is by far the exception rather than the rule in real life love stories. Most people meet and fall in love under far more mundane circumstances.

And such mundane circumstances are hard to tie to the main plot. A good example is the story of Arwen and Aragorn, which Tolkien chose to tell in an appendix because it didn't quite fit into the canon proper of LOTR. That's because their relationship was mainly established in quieter times, before the war of the ring began. The cinematic version found a way to work Aragorn and Arwen's relationship back into the main plot, but what worked for the film would not necessarily have worked for the already very dense storyline of the book.

The complaint of lack of “development” seems to set up a false dichotomy. Either the romance is fully integrated into the main plot, or the author is not “allowed” to pair those characters together. IMO, that is much too restrictive. I like romance. I want to see it happen in many different ways, not just the His Dark Materials model of love in the midst of struggle. I even enjoy having a pairing revealed as a “surprise twist” in the plot, as long as it's not involving a POV character, and as long as it doesn't “undo” another pairing that I enjoyed more. (And even then, sometimes I can forgive.) I think authors should be allowed to have a wide variety of options for including romantic subplots in their stories.


And now, some multi-fandom tribonds I came up with in the last day or so:

1. Faramir...Molly Weasley...Ron Weasley

2. Prince Zuko...Eowyn...Luke Skywalker

hymnia: (Tonx)
My answer to the free response question on the Pottermore survey, in case anyone wants to know what I think:

Pottermore )

hymnia: (Sleeping Fairy)
My (belated) thoughts on the film Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, part 2:

My brain has been thoroughly steeped in Harry Potter for a few weeks now, and that really hasn't been the case in a long, long time. Even when the last book came out four years ago, I was engaged and actively participating in fandom, but I wasn't exactly obsessed. But about a month ago I decided to re-read Deathly Hallows, in anticipation of the final film release, and after I had finished that, I started re-listening to the audiobooks, starting from the first book. I'm now on Order of the Phoenix, and when I started that book, I realized that I also wanted to start re-reading [profile] fernwithy's companion stories that begin with a story concurrent to OotP, so now I'm alternating between that and canon. (It suddenly occurs to me that I could have re-read Hermione, Queen of Witches and Ron Rants during the first four books. Missed opportunity—oops!) I've also been reading some Snape-related essays and fanfiction. And between all that, and, of course, going to Wizarding World and the new movie release with several fandom friends last week, I've been very much back in obsession mode.

Well, I've decided to take a break from all that consuming, fannishly speaking, and do a bit of producing. There will be no carefully organized film review here—just my thoughts, more or less off the top of my head. But before I start, I think it's important to recognize that different types of audience members—FREX, 1) fans of the books, 2) casual film-goers who haven't read the books (or maybe read them ages ago but haven't re-read, obsessed over, or particularly remembered what they read), and 3) critical film-goers who may be anywhere on the spectrum of familiarity with the books but have more concrete ideas about what makes a good effects-heavy action/adventure film—may have a hard time seeing things from the POV of the other group(s). Realistically, I can make guesses about what would or wouldn't make this film “good” for the other types of audience members; in the end, however, I can only really speak as a fan who knows these books very well, loves them very much, and is probably a bit less picky about how “cinematic” a film is as long as it's true to the books, especially in terms of characters and themes.

My overall reaction to DH part 2 is very close to my overall reaction to DH part 1, which is that I love it. It was lively, engaging, and it portrayed many of the great moments of the book with near accuracy, including word-for-word dialogue of some of the best lines. I have several quibbles and just a handful of major criticisms, but unlike most of the films prior to DH part 1, I feel that these issues are forgivable, because the overall package is very good.

Here Be Spoilers )

One of these days, I do want to go back and view the pre-DH films again, as most of them I haven't seen more than 2 or 3 times at most, and nearly all of them I haven't seen since they were in theaters. (Yeah, can you tell I haven't really been a big fan of the films? The odd thing is, there's only one, Prisoner of Azkaban, that I would say I really *dislike*. I just haven't liked them enough to sit down and re-watch them on DVD/TV.) Perhaps I'll find that I like them more now, or perhaps not. Either way, I would like to re-visit them and see how I feel, now that the franchise is complete.

hymnia: (Sleeping fairy)
Just some quick thoughts before I fall into bed.

Spoilers )

hymnia: (Default)
And so I present a poll. I would like input from anyone who has read the books, not just fandomers. Feel free to pimp to a wider audience.

Ginny poll )

Sorry for the lack of ticky boxes. I wanted to keep it simple. Feel free to elaborate in comments.

ETA: I'm totally amused that the comments to this post managed to turn into a discussion of Snape and Snapefen.

hymnia: (Default)
I was getting ready to post this at [profile] canon_orx  , and decided I wanted to post it on my own LJ instead.

He raised his eyes, and recognized that wretched child who had come to him one morning, the elder of the Thenardier daughters, Eponine; he knew her name now. Strange to say, she had grown poorer and prettier, two steps which it had not seemed within her power to take. She had accomplished a double progress, towards the light and towards distress. She was barefooted and in rags, as on the day when she had so resolutely entered his chamber, only her rags were two months older now, the holes were larger, the tatters more sordid. It was the same harsh voice, the same brow dimmed and wrinkled with tan, the same free, wild, and vacillating glance. She had besides, more than formerly, in her face that indescribably terrified and lamentable something which sojourn in a prison adds to wretchedness.

She had bits of straw and hay in her hair, not like Ophelia through having gone mad from the contagion of Hamlet's madness, but because she had slept in the loft of some stable.

And in spite of it all, she was beautiful. What a star art thou, O youth!

~Victor Hugo, Les Misérables

Image )

A young girl walked to the witness stand. As she raised her hand and swore that the evidence she gave would be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help her God, she seemed somehow fragile-looking, but when she sat facing us in the witness chair she became what she was: a thick-bodied girl accustomed to strenuous labor.

In Maycomb County, it was easy to tell when someone bathed regularly, as opposed to yearly lavations. Mr. Ewell had a scalded look, as if an overnight soaking had deprived him of protective layers of dirt; his skin appeared to be sensitive to the elements. Mayella looked as if she tried to keep clean, and I was reminded of the row of red geraniums in the Ewell yard.

~Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

Image )

There was a scuffling noise in the corner beside the open window, and Harry realized that there was somebody else in the room, a girl whose ragged gray dress was the exact color of the dirty stone wall behind her. She was standing beside a steaming pot on a grimy black stove, and was fiddling around with the shelf of squalid-looking pots and pans above it. Her hair was lank and dull and she had a plain, pale, rather heavy face. Her eyes, like her brother’s, stared in opposite directions. She looked a little cleaner than the two men, but Harry thought he had never seen a more defeated-looking person.

~Jo Rowling, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Image )

(Merope artwork by Tealin.)

So…has anyone else besides me, [profile] ginnytoo, and this person noticed this?

hymnia: (Default)
[livejournal.com profile] angua9 recently made a follow-up post to the poll about Harry Potter and temperament that I linked to earlier. It has a little bit of info about the results, as well as a request for certain people (those who either forgot to submit part of the poll, or who did not use forced ranking on the set of questions rating ideas about certain characters) to re-visit the poll and add or fix items so that their data can be used. I noticed that a few people who most likely accessed the poll via my link were on the list, including [livejournal.com profile] f_ireworks and [livejournal.com profile] fleurette, and perhaps others I didn't notice. So please check out this post to see if your name is on the list and, if so, to fix the data you submitted so it can be used in Aislinn's research. Thanks!

hymnia: (Default)
For any Harry Potter fans on my flist who haven't already seen this, please consider taking a few minutes of your time to fill out this poll.



hymnia: (Default)

June 2013

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