Notes from my In Box: Dump the Mailbag

News and notes from around the HogPro Universe! From Plato to a Sci-Fi Catholic convert, from Seattle Twilight/Potter debates to the Potter World mushrooming in Orlando, it’s ‘dump the mailbag’ day at Hogwarts Professor. Your comments are much appreciated.

* I was sent this list of Twenty Post Apocalyptic Novels by an online bookseller and had to think of Dr. Amy H. Sturgis’ comments about The Road. She mentioned that she was disappointed that the Twilight Saga, which she thinks is a poorly written and derivative paranormal romance, obscures previous and current members of this genre that are better much as The Road simultaneously highlighted and obscured the field of post-apocalyptic novels.

My first thought was that most readers and critics have said that the Twilight Saga is “derivative” of the Potter series in terms of fan response. I guess Ms. Meyer’s books qualify as “paranormal romance” technically because it has magical backdrops and teenagers in love but I’m confident Dr. Amy wouldn’t classify them as such any more than she would the Middle Earth Saga (plenty of magic and love interests there, too, right?). My stray thought on this subject is that the success of Twilight derives from Potter in as much as Ms. Rowling’s Hogwarts adventures created a taste for mixed-genre fantasy with heavy religious symbolism and allegorical elements which the reader experiences to the degree that each is engaged by the story. So far no author has pulled off the depth of the Potter success because its hard to write a book that is simultaneously gothic-schoolboy-fantasy-hero’s journey-detective novel-teen romance-sature-and-alchemical drama…

About which “rowling” together of genres, I hope you’ll read Harry Potter’s Bookshelf: The Great Books Behind the Hogwarts Adventures. [End shameless book-plug.]

*Still more on Potter/Twilight… A Seattle Times article on ‘Harry vs. Bella’: It’s “Harry Potter” vs. “Twilight” at Seattle Public Library teen debate.

Which is better: J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series? Or Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight” saga? The downtown Seattle Public Library hosts a literary smackdown of sorts Saturday when teens stage a “Great Debate” on the books’ relative merits. Teams of young readers will present their arguments and audience members will decide the winner. Hat-tip to Eeyore!

*Back to more serious perspectives on Harry — here is The (“Post-”) Modern Cave: An Allegory of the University A brilliant updating of Plato’s ever apt Cave Allegory from his Republic. Review the original first for a better appreciation of this writer’s “brilliance,” which is to say “recognition and reflection of the Good and luminous.” Hat-tip to Travis Prinzi!

*Pictures from the rapidly rising Harry Potter World in Orlando — and, yes, there is a tie in with the previous mail item. Hat-tip to Phyllis!

*An Orthodox Christian clergyman, fantasy fiction fan, and HogPro correspondent sent me urls about an atheist sci-fi writer turned Roman Catholic named John C. Wright with the recommendation that I check out this interview and the story of his conversion. “If Vulcans had a church, they’d be Catholics.” A sense of humor, at least! I hope Dr. Sturgis or Perelandra, my sci-fi Nebula Award monitors, will let me know if his books are worth reading.

*And there is another great teaching job in the Bering Strait School District, but this one doesn’t have the view of Siberia or the extra-curricular whale fishing…

Keep those cards and letters coming!


  1. Arabella Figg says

    Thanks for the great list of post-apocalyptic books! I look forward to some more good reading.

    I wrote of Day of the Triffids at Hog’s Head; how prophetic and contemporary this book still is, dealing with satellite weaponry and genetic tinkering. Wyndham is a favorite author. I also recommend two other post-apocalyptic books by him: Rebirth (irradiated world, mutant persecution) and The Kraken Wakes, U.S. title Out of the Deeps, (alien invasion, world flooding).

    Off the “20” list, I’ve read On the Beach, Alas Babylon (a fave), and The Postman (eh). One not on the list, but worth a look is War Day by Whitley Strieber and James Kunetka (America post nuke).

    We can only hope teens who have read your books, John, will be there for the Potter/Twilight smackdown. There should be no question at all regarding superiority!

    No whales? No Siberia? Just the photos and housing description alone…ack! What a bleak place.

    No kitties ain’t gonna go…

  2. I can think of loads of post-apocalyptic books & movies. I also have a soft spot for dystopias.

    But of the first list given I can only say I’ve read Lucifer’s Hammer by Niven & Pournelle. I’ve seen parts of the movie versions of On the Beach & The Omega Man, which is based on I Am Legend. I’ve also seen The Homega Man, The Simpson’s Treehouse of Horror take off of The Omega Man. 🙂

  3. Steve Morrison says

    Miller’s A Canticle for Leibowitz is all I’ve read from the first list – I strongly recommend it, it’s a real classic.

  4. Arabella Figg says

    I tried reading Canticle, but couldn’t get into it. It’s a friend’s fave, though. Nice to see I’m not the only one who enjoys some apocalyptic fiction.

    Revgeorge, I recommend the novel On the Beach over the film (why would that be nothing new?). Shute is such a great writer and this dark novel is very bleak; I wouldn’t read it again. Whereas Alas Babylon is a more enjoyable character-based story I’ve read several times. Of course, it was written a few years before the understanding of “nuclear winter,” which Frank acknowledges in his intro.

    A good book not on the list is Shadow on the Hearth by Judith Merril, a woman who, like Zenna Henderson, wrote in the pre-60s male-dominated SF genre. This book, about a family’s experience, was rather eerie about how the government would lie about nuclear attacks. Of course now we all know the government would lie that dirt is brown.

    Henderson also wrote, amongst her People stories and others, several apocalptic stories. She’s a favorite of mine, with strong character-driven faith-filled stories.

    The kitties would rather be filled with treats…

  5. Perelandra says

    I can vouch for DAYBREAK 2250. I edited its last reprinting from BAEN BOOKS to update and remove things like “atomic cars” from the text. Not only did this book establish the basic Andre Norton plot (deprived outsider finds a home) but it was one of the first genre sf books to sell more than 1M copies. It was also rather ahead of its time by having black characters, racial prejudice being one of Andre’s favorite targets. And as Arabella may already know, she was a great lover of cats. The Grande Dame of sf is still sorely missed.

    And do check out John Wright–an interesting and erudite mind.

  6. Hello John,
    I’m reading many interesting posts you wrote here and waiting for your books I ordered.

    I wanted to ask where I can find a mail address or contact form to write you about insights and ideas I think you will find interesting to investigate more and discuss in the blog?

    thank you.

  7. Arabella Figg says

    I just read the Wright interview and it’s the most engaging, witty and deft one I’ve read in a long time. Made me laugh out loud in spots. I highly recommend reading it.

    I’m an SF fan, even if I don’t understand all the science. I enjoy that arena better than fantasy.

    The kitties are SF (snack first) fans…

  8. The list included several of my most favorite books, too: John Wyndham’s Day of the Triffids, Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend, and two books I would list in my “Top Ten” of all time, Walter M. Miller’s A Canticle for Leibowitz and Mary Shelley’s The Last Man. I haven’t read The Devil’s Children, A Gift Upon the Shore, or The Rift, so I can’t speak to those. I would add Mordecai Roshwald’s Level 7 and Harold Mead’s Mary’s Country, for certain. I wouldn’t have picked Jeanne DuPrau’s City of Ember as the best representative of contemporary young adult post-apocalyptic fiction, either; there have been so many recent ones that are more sophisticated, in my humble opinion. All in all, though, an interesting list.

    I think I considered Twilight in the paranormal romance category in relationship to current marketing and similar trends in adult publishing (the remarkable success of Sookie Stackhouse, for example); recently at the SF cons I’ve attended, there’s always a publishing panel on paranormal romance as the subgenre of the hour. But just to clarify: the tradition I think that is particularly ill-served by Twilight‘s success (per my comparison to The Road) is the venerable and rich tradition of vampire literature.

    As for John C. Wright, I think it’s interesting that much of his fiction is set in the universes of other (now deceased) authors such as William Hope Hodgson and A.E. van Vogt – once again proving that sometimes the difference between fan fiction and professional fiction is simply our recent (and, some would argue, arbitrary) notion of copyright. Great interview, by the way. Thanks for the link!

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