Catching up on the world, I just realized the first Harry Potter novel was published on June 26, 1997 in Great Britain. The British title was Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone; we know it as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. I never understood the reason for the change, but we and the British are divided by a common language, as the saying goes.
I do remember some controversy about the series due to the magical theme. In my opinion, the magic is simply a storytelling device, just as space is a storytelling device for Star Wars. Reduced to the essentials, both are simply good-versus-evil confrontations. (If I ever get a chance, I want to ask George Lucas what he thinks of Harry Potter.) The big difference is Star Wars was introduced as a film. After the original (now Episode 4) became so popular, I thought movies were our storytelling future. We would get to the point where children would no longer pick up a book, but pop a VCR into the player for story time.
Fortunately, I was wrong. The Harry Potter series restored the book as a primary storytelling vehicle. Personally, I think the books are much better than the movies, and so telling a story in print will be with us for many more years to come. Especially since I was doubly wrong — VCRs are obsolete technology anyway.
Incidentally, The Writer’s Almanac described Joanne (J. K.) Rowling as
an unemployed, single mother waiting for a delayed train, when an idea suddenly came to her. “I did not have a functioning pen with me,” she said. “I simply sat and thought for four hours, while all the details bubbled up in my brain, and this scrawny, black-haired, bespectacled boy who didn’t know he was a wizard became more and more real to me … I began to write that very evening.” The seven Harry Potter books have sold 450 million copies worldwide and spawned a successful movie franchise. The character of Harry Potter earns J.K. Rowling, as she is now known, an estimated $10,000 every hour.
Why can’t I have an idea like that?
The quotation is from The Writer’s Almanac of June 26, 2016, writersalmanac.org/