Potter-verse Possibilities: Sequel Speculation

The 800 word Sirius-and-James Adventure (should we call it, “A Night on the Town” (NOT)? As in “the prequel I’m NOT writing”?) has me thinking. Travis is exploring the meaning of the names mentioned in NOT over at Hog’s Head and I think he’s drilled this one, especially the Wilberforce mention and Bethsheba “oppressed woman and ancestor of Christ” reference. My interest, perhaps less interesting, certainly less substantial than cryptonyms, is in the value of this story-material for speculation about Ms. Rowling’s future. Is Ms. Rowling writing or at least toying with writing more Potter-verse stories?

If she is, I think the three most likely directions that could take are:

(1) The sequel pointed to in the Epilogue of Deathly Hallows, namely, the adventures of the ASP, the Rose, and the Scorpius (ouch);

(2) The prequel suggested by the 800 word NOT story of James and Sirius Ms. Rowling recently penned for charity; and

(3) A sequel of novels featuring the Terrific Trio and Ginny in the post-bellum Shacklebolt era.

I think of these possibilities #2 is the most promising for Ms. Rowling, personally and professionally, and for her readers. Here’s why:

The ASP, Rose, and Scorpius storylines will, unfortunately, have to include their parents. Harry, Ron, and Hermione’s adventures were largely kid-power stories, sans parents and adult consultation, and it didn’t seem that bizarre, even if Ron did have parents and family he could call on for help (but never does). No way is that possible for the Asp and the Rose. Even if older brother James teasing and taunting ASP gives us a decent set-up for an “I’ll do this on my own just to show him!” adventure or two, if the adventures ever get to the “confronting Voldemort” scale we’re used to, it will be hard, I’ll say “impossible,” for Harry Potter not to enter the fray.

A sequel based on the Epilogue characters suffers from the same story restrictions from those comic book super-hero “leagues” and “team-ups” that have Superman on the roster. Unless you incapacitate or otherwise remove the Big Guy from the story, he’s always there to do, able to do, wanting to do much more than any of the other players can do. And if the story doesn’t feature a Dark Lord-esque villian that would mandate the Rose, the ASP, and even Scorpius calling their parents, are we interested in the story? We need a big baddie at least in the back ground to make the Potter-verse turn and in a believable sequel that would mean parental intervention.

More common-sensical, given that his name is on the franchise, would be to do a series of one-off mystery novels or a shorter series featuring Harry Potter, Ron, and Hermione (with Ginny, too, if she’s not in school). We know and love the characters, the chaos sure to have followed Voldemort’s demise would have plenty of bad guys wanting to play the Dark Lord’s part, and, if set in the years before they all marry and have children, the stories could feature old scenes or new ones. It wouldn’t be that hard to write a believable story of a Death Eater or Skeeter-like reporter finding the Resurrection Stone and bringing back Lord Thingy himself. Scary thought.

I don’t think that works, though, either as a story or Detective Agency series possibility. For one thing, because of the Epilogue, we know that Harry, Ron, and Hermione (not to mention Ginny, Mr. Weasley, Draco, Teddy Lupin, and Percy) all survive to catch the Hogwarts Express or see it off 19 years later. Include Ms. Rowling’s marriage-and-offspring charts and there’s little chance of anyone dying in the pre-Epilogue interim adventures. And isn’t that sudden-death possibility what makes adventure stories and NASCAR races so gripping?

I’d also say that the 4100 page story of Harry’s apotheosis was so well done, the themes so well played out and tied off, that another adventure featuring the same hero is going to be hard to embrace. Imagine Hamlet appearing in the Scottish Play or Anna Karenina joining Emma for a manner-and-morals novel. Harry is Harry’s story. We have that story, it was brilliantly conceived, planned, and executed, and the curtain has closed on it. Daniel Radcliffe may be able to play other parts convincingly and move on but the book Harry Potter is spent. Just as Bilbo and Frodo were exhausted and just waiting to go to the Lands of the Undying after their adventures, Harry, too, should be allowed to retire to the Great Heroes Valhalla.

The James and Sirius adventures with the Golden Age Order of the Phoenix has a problem as a continuation of the Potter-verse stories like the Epilogue in that we already know how their story ends. Knowing that James gets married, has a son, and gets blasted by the Dark Lord and knowing about Sirius’ time in Azkaban afterwards means their adventures during or after their seven years at Hogwarts are sure to end with them surviving to meet their fates elsewhere. And what would be the excitement in that?

Well, that could be very exciting. The adventures of the first Order would feature a believable bad-guy in the younger, less serpentine Lord Voldemort and a host of great good-guy characters in their youth and prime. The Prewitt brothers could be there for Fred and George comedy (and Molly battling with them would be a riot), Albus, Aberforth, and Alastor with all their passion and quirks would be AAA adventure, and James, Lily, and Sirius I think would be a wild and woolier trio than Harry, Ron, and Hermione if only because of Black’s Slytherin qualities.

Perhaps as important as narrative line considerations, Ms. Rowling could continue to write stories on her themes of choice, love, and death but with a much darker edge. Lily and James die at the end of this alchemical drama and leave the Philosophical Orphan; Sirius’ fate is in many ways worse. Reading these stories, however fun the Potter/Black dialogue must be (and it would be fun, especially with Lily to deflate them both), would be a little like going to see King Lear or Othello on stage; we know the ending and it ain’t grins and giggles.

The more I think about it, the more likely it seems that Ms. Rowling will be drawn back into the Potter-verse in some fashion and this is the more likely choice. It isn’t really Potter-verse, after all, it’s Rowling-verse. She created this imaginative sub-creation and it is her genius and artistry that animate the characters and adventures in it. Ms. Rowling has given these novels the greater part of her adult life and “Harry Potter Author” is, like it or not, her public persona and almost certainly her private identity as well by now. Thousands of people, because of the books, films, theme park, and charities this work has spawned and supported, have jobs or have parts of their lives depend on the continued production and popularity of this sub-creation.

And, if Ms. Rowling were able to resist that kind of external pressure to “keep the Potter ball rowling” (and, let’s not kid ourselves, do you think Warner Brothers isn’t doing all it can to make their Potter-property continue to pay? Talk to Janet), I wonder if the identity-issues and the creative ruts formed in creating the back-story and richness of the Wizarding World don’t mean she simply will not be able to write about anything else as well without a comparable inspiration and investment of self. I just can’t imagine that happening to any person twice in a lifetime; the investment is too large.

In case that sounds misogynist or patronizing, I ask you to think of Tolkien, the author that comes to mind when thinking about Ms. Rowling’s situation. “Tollers” was a first class intellect, accomplished scholar, best of friends, and writing wonder; he couldn’t, however, put aside Middle Earth and write other stories in different settings along different lines. Poems, essays, and telephone book back-story, yes, but nothing but the sub-creation that made him the “Greatest Author of the 20th Century.” The magnitude of the artistic accomplishment in The Lord of the Rings precludes follow-up equal to it. Ms. Rowling, for better or worse, is in the same situation.

The prequel option, I think, gives her the best escape route. The stories of the first Anti-Voldemort Order will be darker, more adult, and perhaps even almost in-your-face with Ms. Rowling’s surface meanings of social justice, diversity, and tolerance. From the little we’ve seen, the schoolboy and postgraduate Sirius and James and Lily are much brasher and non-conformist than Harry, Ron, and Hermione. Their stories would be much edgier and sharper. None of them is a Chosen One.

My misgiving? I don’t see how she could give these stories a hermetic layer about human transformation and perfection. This is the artistry that gives the seven Harry Potter novels the Shakespearian sap that makes the postmodern pablum and edifying symbolism come to life. If she can sort that out — and it’s no small problem — the prequel adventures of the Order of the Phoenix fighting the Dark Lord in Volde War I may be her best option for advancing her themes and taking her writing in a different direction.

Or she can wait for a similar inspiration and ten year investment in back story to write about another hero or heroine. While ignoring the businesses and charities asking her to support them as the Harry Potter lady.

I think the Parousia will be upon us first. Ms. Rowling, of course, is free to write nothing, write something that will bomb, or surpass her Harry Potter work with the most brilliant political fairy tales since Swift. Because of my track record in speculation, the smart money is on the political fairy tales.

As always, I look forward to reading your comments and corrections of my over reaching. Are the three sequel possibilities really her only options? Is the prequel route her best bet? I think so but look forward to reading how wrong I am (again).


  1. revgeorge says

    Well, she is quite the victim of her own success. In music terms she’s a one hit wonder & in tv terms, she’s typecast. The overwhelming success of her debut work makes it quite unlikely that she’ll ever come close to repeating that success. At least on such an epic level.

    She can either embrace that success & identity & realize that anything else she does will always be coloured by & compared to HP. She can reject that identity, which is probably not likely. Or she can maintain the identity but be bitter about it. Who really knows how she’ll respond?

    I think you’re right, John, that her best bet at continuing to write HP stories lies in prequels. Either that or beginning to work much more fervently on her HP encylopedia. Maybe she can milk the HP phenomenon by every other year or so releasing a volume in the Harry Potter A to Z Encyclopedia.

    Not to cause more problems, but maybe she can go back & write the saga of Dumbledore & Grindelwald. 🙂

  2. As much as I would love a Potter-prequel delving into the early Order years, I have to vote for the Potter-world encyclopedia and a few more Hogwarts’ textbooks such as *Quiddich Through the Ages* and *Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them*.

    Imagine, *Hogwarts; A History*…now there’s a read that would help explain the many magical features of the castle! Although I suppose such an entry might be included in the encyclopedia version, I would still rather have the tome dedicated to the school’s many oddities.

  3. Red Rocker says

    Here’s my guess: if she does return to Potterverse, she’ll write of characters we haven’t met. Anything else, even with ASP and Rose and Scorpius would be too same-old, same-old. Familiar characters will be peripheral to the plot, if they appear at all.

    But I return to the comment that outraged John on the last thread: if she returns to Potterverse, she’ll be limiting herself. I don’t mean that her themes were juvenile or immature: she dealt with love’s triumph over death, for God’s sake, how could that ever be considered juvenile? And all the subliminal levels that will keep John and the rest of the academics analysing and writing for years. And her evil characters were as convincingly evil as her good characters were good. No pulling punches here: Fenrir Greyback, Amycus and Alecto, Peter Pettigrew, Umbridge; a real bouquet of evil for our enjoyment. And the same with her in-between characters: Slughorn, Filch, Dudley, Petunia, Mad Eye / Barty Crouch Jr, Rita Skeeter, Hepzibah Smith. The woman is a genius when it comes to creating convincing, adult characters.

    So what am I talking about when I say she’ll box herself in children’s fantasy? What’s lacking in the Potterverse, as rich and varied and complex as it is?

    A couple of things.

    Let’s start with sex.

    Because JKR started writing a children’s book, because although her audience has grown, it’s starting point is the ten year old reader, and adult – or even adolescent – sexuality is not appropriate subject matter for ten year olds.

    She doesn’t have to write about sex, you could argue. There are lots of brilliant books for adults that don’t touch upon sex. Sure. But her characters are sexual beings who have sexual feelings. She covers that ground very lightly – and not at all in Dumbledore’s case, for obvious reasons – but it’s there. Hepzibah Smith, Severus Snape, Harry Potter, Bellatrix Lestrange and – God help us – Dolores Umbridge – are all sexual beings. They lust. And we all know who – or what – they lust after.

    You can’t go very far with that in juvenile fiction.

    The other thing you can’t take too far is ambiguity, unresolved conflict, loose ends, all the messy side of life. All that endless hanging about in tents, going nowhere, doing nothing. How life-like it is. And how totally out of place in a book with such a clear direction and such a clear resolution.

    And then there’s the good and evil thing. Sure, there are the in-between characters I mentioned above; of course JKR is capable of shades of good and evil. But there is a core group of almost entirely good people: Harry, Hermione, Ron, Neville, Luna, LilyandJames, Ginny, FredandGeorge, the Weasleys, Mr and Mrs. Ron dances a little close to the edge, sometimes, but he pulls back just in time. The core group is solidly, reassuringly good.

    Write a book about a character who is not totally or mainly good sometime, Ms. Rowling. Someone who is as much on the dark side as the light. Give him sexual feelings. Take him to the end of his saga largely unredeemed, with only flashes of decency.

    She can’t. Not in this genre. Her audience – not just the kids but many of the adults as well – wouldn’t accept it. Which is a shame, because I think she’d be darned good at writing that kind of story.

  4. We could then perhaps hope for a new series, like: «James Potter & the …»? Or: «Lily Evans & the ..».

    But she would have to find another starting point for every book than Privet Drive. She could keep King’s Cross, Hogwarts, Dumbledore and most of the other ones. She could picture more fully the senior Potters in Godrick’s Hollow, the senior Blacks, the senior Lupins etc. And she would probably masterly invent new mysteries to solve in each book.

    She would struggle hard to write more Quidditch, though.

    But John is right. The problem would be to picture James, Lily, Remus, Severus and Sirius in the processes through the nigredo, albedo and rubedo in such a way as to make them (or James or Lily alone) the Quintessence. Like Harry was.

    But is that, from what we now know, totally impossible? I don’t think so. As she documented at Harvard, the nigredo experience is somehow universally applicable.

    I think she could do it.

    Yours, Odd
    (Bg, Norway)

  5. revgeorge says

    Surprise! I think you’re right, Red Rocker. If she limits herself to the HPverse, she’ll seriously be limiting her skills as an author, which are considerable. Except, of course, for working on her Scottish Book & other HP sundries, like Hogwarts, the History, as pj suggested. But otherwise, I think she’s exhausted the Potterverse, unless of course she places stories in the same world but different parts, like Brazil or America or what not.

    I think the question is, & what John is getting at, can she break away from just being the HP Lady? I’m not sure she can, although I’m sure if she did, she could do excellent work in other genres. But I don’t think she can be torn between two worlds, the Potter world & the world of other works. One or the other will tend to dominate.

  6. Red Rocker says

    Yeah, I think she’s got to hang about in tents for a while so she can choose: Potterverse, or going where her creative imagination leads her.

  7. Red Rocker says

    And here’s another thought.

    She should do this regardless of whether her next work will be as successful as HP. It’s unlikely that anything – by anyone – will ever be as successful as HP. But she shouldn’t let that stop her.

    In a funny sort of way, she should listen to the lesson she preached to the Harvard graduating class: don’t be afraid of failure.

  8. My thoughts on this issue are leaning toward the ‘prequel’ as something Jo would do if she would plan on writing within the Wizarding World again.
    I think to fulfill the development of an epic adventure in that world again you have to go back to not only the early years of James, Lily, Sirius and let us not leave out the importance of Severus Snape, but also Tom Marvolo Riddle.
    Their early years at Hogwarts along side the concern of Albus Dumbledore at desire of TMR to achieve power and immortality as Lord Voldemort I believe would give Jo a great start (if she hasn’t already worked on this in secret) to a prequel involving the intrigue and development of the Order of the Pheonix.

    Along with Red Rocker, I see this work as directed to a more adult readership. A little more mystery/romance and a splash of humor thrown in for good measure. As we have already read from the Waterstone copy.

    I don’t see Jo writing 700 pages on this prequel idea either. If she pursues this idea that we in the fandom are deciding for her (LOL), I see a series of short works, written in sequence, for charitable purposes only.

  9. Might I add another thought to this discussion?

    Question: Would JKR consider herself a failure as an author if she chose not to tackle another series, but concentrated on short-term projects associated with HP characters and settings?

    The answer for me is “hopefully not.” For every *next generation* of readers, the wonder of Harry’s story waits to be discovered. Could we not presume Jo’s resources to be endless in choosing storylines like the two-page prequel we were given…little projects that would most likely add up to big bucks for charities, special events, and the like in future?

    Perhaps we sell Ms Rowling short sometimes in our haste to consume, digest, and contemplate all the HP we can get our hands on. I know I don’t appreciate pressure “to produce” following successful projects just because I have the skills to keep doing them.

    I can’t believe I’m saying this, but let’s give Jo space to create at her leisure (enjoy what she does give us), tamp down our anxieties to have more Harry (not that we should stop our discussions), and allow her to consult on HP Movies 7 & 8 to their completion (oh, what a day that will be!). THEN we will know whether she is ready to put Potterdom on paper again 🙂

    pj, trying to give the lady a break.

  10. revgeorge says

    pj, I agree with you to a point, and that point is, it’s Jo who wrote the prequel-not. She could’ve written anything on her note card but she chose to write a HP story.

    Personally I don’t think she has to write another word in her life if she doesn’t want to. She’s already cemented herself as a great author. We’ll just have to wait & see what she does.

  11. Arabella Figg says

    PJ and RevGeorge, I agree with you. Perhaps Rowling would like some years enjoying her family and raising her children without the pressure of deadlines and work.

    And perhaps pressure to write more Wiz stuff will make her obstinate and determined to do something different.

    She’s previously said that if she wrote any other WizWorld works, “our” HP characters would be only b peripheral. As I suggested earlier, perhaps she might write a collection of short stories that wouldn’t require a huge narrative arc, but could include her hermetic artistry. Or, rather than writing about the Order, about which we know really do know quite a bit (including the ending), what if she were to write about the four founders of Hogwarts? That would be interesting! And she could do it in the context of A History of Hogwarts, which would make a fascinating book and include the historical events referred to in the HP books.

    But, I’ll admire Rowling if she goes in another direction and pulls out of G. Gryffindor’s hat something completely different.

    As RevGeorge says, “Personally I don’t think she has to write another word in her life if she doesn’t want to.”

    Kitties don’t do anything they don’t want to, except go to the vet…

  12. I do think that a prequel is the most interesting of all the options at this point. I’m not sure she could repeat (or emulate) her original alchemical artistry, though a lot of the symbolism is already present, just within the names! If she did write a book-length prequel focused on the trio of James, Sirius and Lily, I wonder which character would become her limited POV? I suspect writing things through Jame’s eyes would feel a little too Harry-ish — too easy to slip into old habits, less of a creative challenge. If I were JKR and playing with this wonderful fictional universe I’d created, I think I’d be busily trying stories from various viewpoints (major and minor) and seeing what felt like it had the most creative life and challenge in it as I wrote it.

  13. schmalchemy says

    Personally, while I love Harry Potter and everything about the world in which he lives, I sincerely hope that Rowling does whatever she wants. And frankly it is not up to me to say.

    However, having said that, I also believe that she is able capable of writing in any genre or style she would wish to. In fact, I think she will/would be successful in whatever endeavor she chooses.

    To put it in a more personal perspective, my husband left one successful career after more than thirty years for another, equally successful. People still ask him if he misses the first because they just know he must. While he misses certain aspects of it, he has enjoyed his second career, and to some degree, even more so than his first. Part of the reason for this is that he is now able to devote more time to writing. While he wrote throughout his first career, and now with his second, he now has the time to write fulltime. As for his writing genre, he has written everything from a textbook to poetry to novels (of different genres).

    I think the same can (and will) be said of Rowling. Whether or not she ever writes another Harry Potter, she will continue to write. That’s what writers do…they write. They are compelled to write.

    And as much as I love Harry Potter, I rather wish she’d rather:
    1) write whatever she really wants without regard for her rabid fans
    2) write something totally different

    but in the long run, I hope she just enjoys her life, and is able to live it the way she wants to live it.
    exiting soapbox mode….

  14. And perhaps this is Ms. Rowling’s wish, too; to be able to jump on her magical motorbike with a good friend, thumb her nose at authority, vanquish her enemies, and make a joke about the Elvendorks in need of a life speculating about her every move.

    Perfectly understandable!

    John, more Elvendork than I want to admit

  15. Red Rocker says

    Agree with schmalchemy: she will continue to write, because that’s what writers do. It’s what they are compelled to do.

    As I’ve said elsewhere, I’d like to see her move on. She’s got more worlds in her.

    Seems to me that we’ve figured out the definition of the word “elvendorks” – and it’s us.

    Maybe she’s not the only one who needs to move on.

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