Harry Potter: Isn’t 007 the most powerfully magical number?

Years after Hogwarts, Harry Potter is the top Auror in the Ministry of Magic. The Death Eaters are gone. But what happens when an international Dark wizard ring rises out of the shadows, and Auror Potter must join forces with his muggle opposite number in MI6? If anyone’s interested in exploring this question, I offer the following titles to help get you started…

  • For Your Mad-Eyes Only
  • A View To Avada Kedavra
  • From Azkaban With Love
  • License To Curse
  • On Dumbledore’s Secret Service*
  • The Auror Who Loved Me
  • Thunderbroom
  • The Man With The Golden Wand
  • Dragons Are Forever
  • Octopeevesy
  • GoldenSnitch
  • The Wizarding World Is Not Enough
  • You Only Die Seven Times
  • Quidditch Royale
Potter. Harry Potter.

Potter. Harry Potter.

*Actually, On Hermione’s Secret Service is funnier because it sounds very close to the original title.

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Evil Motives

As I’ve said before, I have a habit of judging works of fiction by their bad guys. I therefore pay a lot of attention to my own bad guys. One thing I initially had trouble with, but have since gotten good at, is coming up with motivations for the bad guys. After all, even if you’ve come up with a memorable and dangerous supervillain, you still have to be able to answer the question of, “Why is he being evil?” Here, therefore, is a list of possible answers to that question, with examples in parenthesis. There are, of course, other examples than the ones I list.

Warning: Many of these links are to YouTube videos. There will be sound.

  1. Wants to take over the world (Sauron, Emperor Palpatine, and Voldemort all qualify, but Pinky and the Brain are this straight up)
  2. Wants to destroy the world (the Burning Legion)
  3. Instinctively attempting to feed (the Tarrasque, most zombies)
  4. Instinctively attempting to defend itself or its kind (the Horta)
  5. Doing it for sport (the Joker)
  6. Wants money (Gordon Gekko)
  7. Wants revenge (Nero)
  8. Wants to destroy a specific group (There was this one German guy whose name escapes me) Continue reading

Disney Villains

I love Disney villains. So rarely do you get bad guys who not only openly admit to being evil, but actually sing about it. I mean, Voldemort likes his followers to call him “the Dark Lord,” and Darth Vader talks about the Dark Side, but Dark is not Evil (a topic for a future post). No, only Disney villains truly take pride in their evilness, and can actually sing about it. Or even better, make their minions sing about it, and kill them for singing it wrong.

Here I’m thinking of Ratigan, the Professor Moriarty expy in The Great Mouse Detective. I’m going to insist you watch his villain song on the YouTube: The World’s Greatest Criminal Mind. Read more after you’ve watched that. Continue reading

Made Up Words and Some-At-A-Time Backstory

Right, so I’ve posted my prologue. If you haven’t read it, I really hope you do sometime, because it’s a scene I really like. I always believe that in fantasy stories, or any work of fiction really, you should try to keep made up words to a minimum. I exempt names of individuals from this, unless they contain  apostrophes, like Jor’tul or something. Any made up words you use should be introduced individually and spaced out over the entire work, so as not to overwhelm. Harry Potter is very good at this, except perhaps for the first chapter, and the “Yer a wizard, Harry” chapter. In my prologue, there are several funny names, but that’s about it. I mention the Magnolium Order without much explanation. Hopefully it’s clear that it’s a religious organization, and that’s all you need to know at the start.

That’s not to say you can’t have things unexplained. The true nature of that coin, for example, shouldn’t be revealed until much later in the story. Cardinal Alabaster is nowhere near as nice as 7-year old Romm thinks, and his motives will be expanded upon as the story progresses. And the king’s reason for killing that girl will be a major part of the plot; it will transpire that she did, in fact, have a son.

More important than not using confusing made-up words is not overloading the reader with an info dump, explaining all the reader has to know in a totally boring format. Again, Harry Potter was hit and miss at this. It was mostly good, except for the first few chapters of the first book, and the obligatory “Dumbledore Explains It All” chapter towards the end of each book. But by then, it was the end of the story, and we could stand some clearing up of mysteries. If you open with “Allow me to give you a history lesson about this fictional world of mine,” you will get very few readers.

I’m much worse with this than with not using made-up words. Interspersing plot with backstory is hard when there’s no good reason for the main character not to know the backstory. I just read a book that was actually quite good at this (Prospero Lost, by L. Jagi Lamplighter). It was written in first person, and the narrator knew everything she needed to about the backstory (though not about the current plot). So she didn’t discuss things she knew until they became relevant, or unless the character was reminded of that bit of history by something else that was going on. I think I should try to do that.

The Case Against Harry Potter, Part II

What is Dark Magic? We know that Dark Magic is often characterized by powerful and often irreversible effects, such as the spell that claimed George Weasley’s ear, or the cursed ring that destroyed Albus Dumbledore’s hand. But the true mark of Dark Magic is not the power of the spell. It’s the malice with which the spell must be cast. Such spells are never cast by accident, nor are they cast by someone with goodness in their hearts. They are always, always cast with ill intent. And their effects are, without exception, equally harmful to the subject of the spell. In effect, Dark Magic is the caster’s hate or fury made manifest, by the power of magic. The Unforgivable Curses are so named, in other words, because nobody can cast them without evil intent.

Even Harry Potter, who tortured a Death Eater with the Cruciatus curse, necessarily did so with hatred in his heart. We don’t need Legilimency to figure that out, because if he hadn’t, the curse would not have worked. Mr. Potter’s claim that he did so only in defense of Professor Minerva McGonagall, therefore, does not hold water. After all, would not a Stunning spell served just as well? Similarly, take the case of the Gringotts break-in (which, by the way, we are not prosecuting as a bank robbery). A Confundus charm would have granted Harry Potter and his friends entry into the bank. There was no need to violate the minds of bank staff members with such a cold-blooded hex as the Imperius curse.

No one can deny that Mr. Potter’s actions led to the downfall of the wickedest sorcerer the world has yet seen. But if Harry Potter did Unforgivable things along the way, should we turn a blind eye? Do the ends really justify the means? Witches and wizards, we await your verdict.

The Case Against Harry Potter, Part I

One ambiguity in J.K. Rowling’s works is the definition of “Dark Magic.” The implication is that certain spells, especially the three “Unforgivable” Curses, are inherently evil, and even if you have the power to cast them, only bad guys every would. But is that because the spells’ effects are horrific, or because there’s something evil about the magic itself?

Witches and wizards of the Wizengamot, this is the question you must consider in this trial. The accused, Mr. Harry James Potter, stands charged of having cast two Unforgivable Curses, the Imperius curse and the Cruciatus curse, on the 1st and 2nd, respectively, of May 1998. As is well known to you, the use of either of these curses upon a fellow human being is punishable by a life sentence in Azkaban. As is also well known by now, Mr. Potter allegedly cast these spells as part of his quest to defeat Lord Voldemort. Many have said that, given the circumstances, the accused’s use of these curses should be overlooked and not punished. Nevertheless, the law is very clear. I ask you — can use of the Unforgivable Curses be forgiven?

Learned members of the high wizarding court, why do our laws condemn the use of these curses so completely? Is it because the crimes of slavery, torture, and murder are so heinous, that they can never be excused? Certainly, each of these is a horrendous offense. Even in muggle courts, these felonies carry the stiffest of penalties. I need not explain why. Nor did those wise wizards of old, who set down these laws, need to justify their motives in outlawing these tools of evil. But if, in this rare case, the Imperius curse was used to aid in the destruction of Lord Voldemort rather than to control another for one’s own gain, if the Cruciatus curse was used to defend a school teacher instead of to inflict needless pain, then perhaps you may decide that we can overlook their use in this case.

It seems shortsighted of our lawmakers, however, to have believed that such spells could never be used except to evil ends. I propose that, instead, they knew that there was something more behind these spells than their obvious effects. I propose that these spells are Dark Magic, not just because their effects are harmful, but because the spells themselves are inherently evil.

(To be continued)