‘Hunger Games’ Theme Park in China

I am a fan-boy for everything Suzanne Collins writes. I loved her five Gregor the Overlander books, I think that The Hunger Games trilogy is as good and in some ways better than Harry Potter, and I’ve even read and enjoyed Year of the Jungle.

I have, though, only seen the movie adaptation of Collins’ first Hunger Games novel; I thought that film so bizarrely tone-deaf to everything that book was about — an assault on the Gamesmakers of the Capitol-ist regime today — that I avoided the next three movies made by the Gamesmakers to celebrate Gamesmakers as the real heroes of the Resistance. See ‘Gamesmakers Hijack Story: Capitol Wins Hunger Games Again’ for more on that. 

As unfortunate and perhaps inevitable as the beyond satire ‘transformation in adaptation’ experience to be had in the movie making of Collins’ anti-Gamesmakers novels, today I learned that Lionsgate has opened a Hunger Games theme park in the People’s Republic of China.

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Some of Lionsgate’s most popular film franchises from “Hunger Games” to “Twilight” will be brought to life when the studio opens what it calls the world’s first vertical theme park in China this summer.

Lionsgate Entertainment World will offer several adventures including a virtual reality motorcycle ride based on “Twilight,” a maximum-security prison breakout like in “Escape Plan” and a replica of The Capitol lobby from “Hunger Games,” complete with shops where guests can fashion themselves in the film’s distinctive couture….

Based on the four-part film series starring Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen, park goers will journey through a motion simulator 3D ride experience called The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Flight Rebel Escape. It starts on the streets before riders board a vehicle that gets picked up by a hovercraft that flies through The Capitol.

Guests will also have the opportunity to venture around the lobby area of The Capitol where they can get their hair, makeup and even nails done to look like a citizen of the “Hunger Games” films, including the look of chaperone Effie Trinket.

Restaurants will feature a “Hunger Games”-themed menu with different dishes inspired by the film’s various districts.

A movie-adaptation of The Hunger Games is guaranteed to be an exercise in irony.

A theme park where paying customers line up to become citizens of the Capitol is at least an exponentially more difficult trick to pull off without contradicting the message of the stories.

And a theme park in China? C’mon.

This would be the People’s Republic of China with a million or more Muslims in concentration camps, the China that is using facial recognition software and social media tracking and accounting to police the behavior of its citizens, and the China that has “relaxed” its one child program — and continues to force women to have abortions, a procedure of government sanctioned and sponsored violence-akin-to-rape and murder. The China that is a living, dynamic, totalitarian-state nightmare and Orwellian hell. It is The Capitol and paranoid police-state District 13 of Collins’ dystopian novel rolled into one and writ larger than even the United States, Collins’ more obvious target in her book series.

This China is where Lionsgate is building a theme park with Hunger Games rides, on which park-goers, playing the part of Resistance Rebels, tour the Capitol — and can get made-up to play the part of the citizens of the Capitol. You know, the people for whom the Hunger Games, the last-man standing contest of tribute-children from the Districts murdering one another in state-sponsored entertainment, are designed as reality television programming.

This theme park is so far beyond satire as to be physically sickening. I want very much to believe that Suzanne Collins has nothing to do with this but have to ask myself if that isn’t risibly naive on my part.

New Deluxe Illustrated ‘Goblet of Fire’

Charles Dickens pretty much invented the profit-taking side of publishing new editions of his books for extra cash for only new packaging. Bloomsbury and Scholastic, though, with their new covers editions of the seven Harry Potter novels and the versions color-coded for each Hogwarts house are at least as shamelessly returning to the Potter well for a fresh infusion of fan dollars and pounds.

The latest round is Bloomsbury’s “Deluxe Illustrated” hardcover edition of Goblet of Fire in slipcase, illustrations by Jim Kay. No collection of Potter books will be complete without it. The deluxe book, if ordered today, comes with a “black tote bag with gold foil” and the Illustrated, plebian edition with a “cream tote bag.” The one you want costs £127 which translates to ~$160 US.

The twist beyond that price point? It’s only for sale in the UK, Republic of Ireland, Ireland, and Australia.

This offer is open to UK and ROI residents only, while stocks last. Terms & Conditions apply. If you are located outside of the UK/Republic of Ireland please order Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire Illustrated Edition here, or the Deluxe Illustrated Edition here. Please note, if you are located in United States or the Phillippines, unfortunately we do not have rights to sell the book with title “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire Illustrated Edition“.

Note in those gifs from the twitter announcement that both the Bloomsbury and the WizardingWorld logos are included in the bottom corners. It seems that Scholastic has been shut out of this alliance at least temporarily so that the only North Americans who can shell out for the slipcase book and black tote “with gold foil” will be citizens of Canada and Mexico that have cash to burn.

No big deal, I guess, unless you are an American who collects Potter editions — and I have to suspect that, as collectors, they are used to, even excited about, this kind of challenge. No doubt the more avid of this set of Potter-philes have friends or fellow collectors in the UK , ROI, or down under with whom they have mutual assistance agreements for exclusive release or limited edition products and books.

Will you be missing this chance to buy the Deluxe Illustrated edition? If you live in the privileged countries, have you ordered your book and tote? Let me know in the comment boxes below!

Rowling’s Outline of Order of the Phoenix: What Does It Really Tell Us?

Whenever I give a talk to a larger group about the ring composition structure of Rowling’s various works, inevitably someone asks about the piece of notebook paper Rowling has made public, a one-sheet snapshot of her chapter by chapter breakdown of what happens when in the various plot threads in Order of the Phoenix. If you haven’t seen it, it looks like this:

That’s pretty hard to read, right? Fortunately the mavens at The Harry Potter Lexicon have created a transcription that is crystal clear legible on a page devoted to this outlineThey include the helpful information that the picture of this piece of paper was posted at Rowling’s original website with the explanatory note, ““Part of the umpteenth revision of the plan of ‘Order of the Phoenix’… Some of the Chapter Names changed and there are a few ideas that didn’t make the final draft.”

C. S. Plocher of The FriendlyEditor.com and WriteLikeRowling.com has taken this transcription-to-legibility process one step further. Check out her fascinating ‘How Rowling Revised Order of the Phoenix post in which she not only shares her transcription of the page Rowling had put up but her color coded guide to what of this plan survived, what changed, and what never made it to Phoenix.

Wild! That is some invaluable grunt work and follow-through for which every serious reader of Harry Potter should be grateful. I certainly am.

But what does it tell us about Rowling as a ring writer? Three things (at least).

(1) It’s obviously true that she works from a plan. This is not the work of a ‘pantser’ that lets her characters tell their story as she writes.

(2) There are no chapter correspondences noted on the page, i.e., it is not a confirmation of Rowling as ring writer. The chapters included on this one sheet, 16 to 29, include the story center (19), and the parallel chapters fore and aft (16-17 with 22-23, 18 and 21, and 19 to 20; see Harry Potter as Ring Composition and Ring Cyclepp 79-82, 142-143), so, if this was Rowling’s principal concern as a writer, you’d expect there to be some lines or notes making these connections.

(3) That being said, I think the chiastic phrase “The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence” is appropriate here. There are no notes about the alchemical structure of the work here, of the Christian content, or of literary allusion and her intratextuality, that is, references to correspondences with Philosopher’s Stone and with Prisoner of Azkaban. But all those things are embedded and make up the less-visible structure and scaffolding both of the book itself and the series of which it is a part.

My conclusion? It’s a fun chart and Rowling historians in future years, especially if they gain access to more of her drafts and outlines, will no doubt make a lot of it, even more than C. S. Plocher has. But the plot outline and sequencing, a kind of check-list preliminary for the story to make sure everything proceeds without a major glitch (as happened in the writing of Goblet) tells us very little about the writer’s formalist and iconological artistry which are under-the-hood, beneath the story-line.

That is Rowling’s greater achievement and to suggest that her tweeking and editing this graph paper is what makes her great is, I think, no little error, however important editing and time-line organization certainly are.

Your thoughts?

‘Lethal White’ Wins CrimeFest Award

J. K. Rowling’s four Cormoran Strike novels, written under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith, have pretty much appeared under the radar at least relative to Potter Mania. They don’t win prizes, they don’t set records for copies sold per minute at each successive book release, and there have been no fan conventions or academic conferences dedicated to them. It is still a commonplace when speaking with Potter-philes, even Potter Pundits, to discover the person you are speaking with has not read the Strike novels even though the books are written by their “favorite author.”

I shouldn’t say they don’t win prizes, though, because three of the four books — and the first before Galbraith was outed as Rowling — have won awards for the audio-book versions as read by Robert Glenister. I’ve written about that before (see ‘Lethal White: The Robert Glenister Audiobook’) and my family’s enjoyment of these versions, exceeding I think our delight even in the Potter audiobooks, as good as those were.

I write about this today because CrimeFest, the annual gathering of crime fiction writers and readers in the UK, has awarded the Audible Sounds of Crime Award to Lethal White for best audiobook against competition including the venerable Ian Rankin (no small influence on the Strike books: Strike can be read as another John Rebus, a damaged veteran with relationship issues in Rankin’s novels, set free in London rather than Edinburgh), the preposterously popular Stephen King, and William Patterson writing with side-kick Bill Clinton. Glenister and Rowling have won the award for every Galbraith novel except Career of Evil, certainly the most, shall we say, challenging Strike book thus far.

If you haven’t downloaded or purchased the CD version of Glenister’s readings, I’ll go so far as to suggest you really haven’t enjoyed and appreciated Cormoran and Robin’s adventures as you might. It is a surprising, I confess, and delightful thing to see the experts and award-givers agree with me here.

Let me know what you think of the Glenister readings in the comment boxes below!

Playing ‘Never Have I Ever’ at Hogwarts

I receive email from a variety of Potter fan groups, one of which is the Harry Potter Society at Oxford University. Their facebook posting for ‘Casual Game Night’ this week featured the picture above from a Slytherin student gathering during Tom Riddle, Jr.’s years at Hogwarts. The captions show the thoughts of five young men playing ‘Never Have I Ever’ with the Dark Lord in Training.

If, like me, you live under a rock and have never played ‘Never Have I Ever’ with fingers or drinks, you can read the rules here. [You’ll learn there that, no, you cannot say in the game, “Never Have I Ever played ‘Never Have I Ever.” It’s a revealing self-contradiction.] It seems from the little I’ve read about the game that it’s often used as an icebreaker at social events but one with obvious dangers of becoming a Purity Test if ‘Dirty Questions‘ are allowed.

The question asked at this Hogsmeade soiree of boy Slytherins is, “Never have I ever killed someone for the purpose of prolonging my life using dark magic.” I think it is the young Riddle who thinks, “Some of these are feeling very pointed.” Rule #1 of the game supposedly is that players have to be honest but one of the players thinks to himself, “Just drink or else they’ll all know how little you’ve done,” so part of the game, forgive me, especially with this lot, is social posturing and positioning.

Forgive me for wondering, “What does Tom say? Why?” 

And, how about this for a test of canon knowledge? If Dumbledore’s Army played this game at their first meeting in the Room of Requirement, it would be pretty easy to isolate and eliminate Harry Potter in violation of Rule #3, “It is not allowed to pick out the players by making statements knowingly to be true about them.” What non-dirty questions could Harry ask, though, at that point in his education and experience, that would make the Army in training all take a drink?

Examples: “Never have I ever completed a year at Hogwarts without a fight to the death with a dark wizard” works, but “Never have I ever had a Potions class taught by a benevolent professor” (none of them have and in Phoenix Slughorn is two years away).

Your turn — and feel free to share your thoughts about whether young Tom owns up in front of his Slytherin drinking buddies to murdering folk!