Harry Potter 20 Years Later: How Harry Potter Saved Young Adult Fiction

This month the magical realm of Harry Potter, created by J.K. Rowling, is celebrating it’s twentieth year. The success of the book series transferred into a successful film series starring Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint, as well as a popular website (Pottermore), Spin-off titles like Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (which also found success as a film), an amusement park attraction (The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios), and now a stage play, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

At the time that the first Harry Potter book was released, young adults and children were accustomed to titles and series such as The Babysitter’s Club, that were a bit more lightweight. The Harry Potter series made way for blockbuster sagas like The Hunger Games, Twilight, and Divergent. Harry Potter easily changed the game for YA fiction.

Though not necessarily original in its common tropes of magic, fantasy, adventure, unfair teachers, a common enemy, heroes, etc., Harry Potter was able to resonate with children and young adults in a way that other tiles could not. Claire Fallon in an article for the Huffington Post writes, “Children’s book writers, especially fantasy authors, who were once the masters of their domain found themselves ignored in media coverage and discussions of ‘Harry Potter.'” Perhaps it was Rowling who wrote the right book at the right time, or she was able to masterfully and creatively construct a seven-book mystery/adventure story arc following characters as they aged into adulthood that coincided with her aging and growing audience. Either way, as Joe Monti, Editorial Director of Saga Press says, “Harry Potter made the careers of many authors possible.”

Harry Potter was able to boosts the sales of YA fiction altogether because of its success. “The Atlantic reported that the number of YA books had increased by a factor of 10 between 1997 and 2009.” The series was also able to help rebuild the disparaging reputation that fantasy had as a genre in YA fiction. Monti says, “Fantasy is mainstream.”

Rowling and Harry Potter as a series took on many risks, including long-form story arcs, thick-sized books, and a fantasy genre as well as the idea that the books also age with the audience. Harry Potter takes on darker themes like lengthy battle scenes, concepts of mortality/fatality, and romantic relationships, all of which challenged what YA fiction was at the time and what publishers can put in front of children and young adults.

Harry Potter was able to open up the horizons for what YA literature could be. Rowling also capitalized on the success of her series, which is part if the reason why Harry Potter has been cemented in pop culture history. It continues, to this day, to pave the way for YA fiction authors.

Ursula Le Guin: Distinguished Contributor to American Literature and Creator of Worlds

As a writer of science fiction and fantasy novels, Ursula Le Guin has a mind capable of imagining entire societies that do not exist outside of the covers of her books. Her novels have had a heavy influence on conversations about gender and have opened conversations about the alternative points of view that surround us on a daily basis. How different could society be if taking on the alternative view was practiced, if it was the status quo when it comes to handling problematic situations? These are the kind of conversations that Le Guin has made possible through her fantastical narratives, and for such contributions, she was awarded with the National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters at the 2014 National Book Awards, which took place on November 19th.

Below is a link to her acceptance speech, which is well worth the six minutes of viewing time. ursula_leguin

Click Here for the acceptance speech

Not only has she been a very visible person in the scifi/fantasty genre, she has also been verbal about the situation with Amazon, authors, and the problem of publishing these days. In an interview with Salon , Le Guin speaks about writing outside the “good vs. evil” plot in fantasy, and her thoughts on the hold that Amazon has on the publishing industry.

News Roundup: Science Fiction and Fantasy

This week we bring you a round-up of the most interesting news and resources for publishing in the science fiction and fantasy genres. Heroes like Margret Atwood, Philip K. Dick, and Stephen King change the way we look at ourselves and the world. In these stories authors change the past or create new futures  where anything is possible. A popular and growing field, we can see the influences of the genres everywhere in books, video games, movies, and many other forms of media. Take a look at the following links and dive into the unknown!