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Goodness, it's been a while since I posted. I've still been an active fandom consumer in the past few months, though--just keeping up with tv shows and movies feels like enough of a proud accomplishment these days. Maybe at some point I'll make a "watched all these things" catch-up post.

What's brought me out to talk today? The story about the JK Rowling interview, where reportedly she admits may not have made the most convincing romance between Ron and Hermione. I haven't come to gloat; I tend to retreat and play devil's advocate at unexpected victory, so let me say this: I didn't write the Harry Potter series, I dunno how many people could have, and for every moment that I muttered over the tell-not-show of the romance or the muddle of the last two books' storylines, I should have countered with a hundred examples of the world-building and foreshadowing and sheer cleverness that she put into those books, that neither I nor any of her critics are likely to accomplish. And I try not to put a lot of significance into voiced author regrets in general because I think they just reflect a feeling of "I wish this were perfect and had no flaws and I guess I have to apologize to everyone for any perceived flaws, especially if I agree" which, heck, I feel all the time about my own stuff. Don't we all?

The image we had in Sorcerer's Stone of Ginny running after the Hogwarts Express, pages before Hermione made her first appearance--sure, I understand that was meant to be a portent. Problem was, we saw so little of Ginny after that, given that she was supposed to become someone very important to Harry. All the moments where Ginny could have been moving into her own little piece of spotlight, denied again and again and again. (I cite Lois McMaster Bujold a lot in this comparison; when, after numerous books and adventures and female companions for the adult Miles Vorkosigan, Bujold decided to introduce a new character who would be the Mrs. Miles, she gave half the book's viewpoint to this new character, in a completely new precedent for the series. And it not only worked, it triumphed.)

So, yeah, this admission is a little satisfying. But not for any reason of "soulmates" or compatibility or attraction etc. between Harry and any other character--just the acknowledgement that if you want your beloved seven-book aimed-at-kids protagonist to end up with a spouse, don't devote all of his on-screen time to ladies other than her.

(But it's still a helluva series.)
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Didn't forget Harry's birthday! The cake is a bakery slice involving yellow cake, mascarpone filling, blueberries and other fruit. Now, where'd I put the candles?
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Deathly Hallows, part 2... Spoilers... )
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Hey, I sat down with an HP plot bunny and wrote it! Hope you guys think it was worth the wait even if it's not as explicit as my usual. This story wanted things left more to the imagination, go figure.

Title: The Baron of Brackley
Author: Amanuensis
Summary: "It's afore I'm a man, avenged I'll be."
Characters/Pairings: Draco-centric; canon Lucius/Narcissa; Narcissa/Moody
Rating: PG for implications
Words: ~3500
A/N: Fifth in my Ballads series of pastiches; for [ profile] goseaward, who introduced me to this ballad and said she wondered if I could do something for it. That was years ago but after writing it multiple times in my head I thought I should finally get it down. Lyrics for one version of The Baron of Brackley can be found here.
There's slight AU at play here; I have aged up Draco a bit for this point in canon history.
Much thanks to [ profile] fabularasa for beta duty.

Face pressed between the staircase bars, Draco watched. )
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I got an absolutely gorgeous surprise from [ profile] caladan_dd a little while ago: HP art featuring my favorite characters. One's a clean version and the other has giggle-inducing dedication text on it.

Click images for big versions!

Jawlines and HAIR and angry expressions and, oh, everything! This fandom has been so lucky to have [ profile] caladan_dd fall in love with it. &hearts
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I think my overall reactions are not particularly spoilery, for a film adapted from a well-known book, so, outside the cut:

In my opinion DH makes a better film than a book. I'm surprised how much of the book they kept, and perhaps that was a function of how convoluted the storyline is, that they didn't feel they could make major cuts and jumps and still keep even the concept alive. Part One felt a good deal like a chessboard being set up at midgame, piece here, piece there, so that come next film we can actually sit down and play with the board that's been set. They convinced me that one decent film could never have been made from that book without changing it radically (more so than even significant hack-and-slash). But they did show that they could make two decent films from it. Even without seeing the second film I'm going to assume that.

But, man, watching DH is to remind oneself of how interminable that book gets. I can't tell you how many times, despite the enjoyment of familiar characters, good acting, and a well-done book-to-script translation, I fell into the litany of I miss Hogwarts, I miss Hogwarts, I miss Hogwarts. Hogwarts and the Harry Potter series aren't like jam and bread, they're like wheat and bread, with one part so integral the concept falls apart when it's gone. And camping is still camping no matter how many times you change the desktop picture.

Spoilery specifics behind the cut. )
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Off to see Deathly Hallows today! I haven't kept it secret that I thought book 7 was a mess. Silly capers against a background of DOOM = me snickering. And the lack of a year at Hogwarts stole one of Rowling's major structural strengths. So I've been eager for this film since series' end, ready to see the problems of the last books corrected in script and on screen. The film of HBP managed it and I've always had faith DH would too.

In Kuroshitsuji/ Black Butler news, Funimation has put the first four English dubbed episodes up on YouTube. I'm great with everyone's voice except...Ciel's. THE MAIN CHARACTER. ARGH. Ciel's voice sounds just right in the rare moments when he's yelling, but at every other time it's so breathy and quiet, I'm at the point where the English dub series works if I imagine Ciel's a cross-dressing girl. Which is an interesting AR, but. I want to enjoy the English experience of it so I hope I get used to the voice after a while. If not, well. "Language Options" DVD menu is my friend.
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Last night's dream about shopping in an airport mall and finding Lucius/Harry paper dolls (they were NSFW, omigod! With all sorts of bedroom outfits!) was vivid. It even included the part where I couldn't wait to get back to the laptop and post to LJ about them.

Re: last night's Glee, the Rocky Horror episode, I think there will be a wide division on opinion, but I decided beforehand not to get too invested and so I simply enjoyed the parts I did and didn't think too much about themes or messages.

Phone conversation immediately after:
Me: Sweetheart, I have to warn you.
S.O.: ...yes?
Me: If the actor who plays Kurt shows up at my door in that costume, he can pretty much have me.
S.O.: Ah. Gotcha.
Me: Fairly remote chances on that, granted.

(We have an agreement that if Kate Winslet, Keira Knightley, or Anne Hathaway show up at either of our doors we are required to share. Only fair.)
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Half-Blood Prince.

Short version: Hooray for the film doing a great job with a book I thought was badly flawed. It came much closer to selling me on its story, and I only felt the absence of perhaps one element from the book. I enjoyed it lots, and a good portion of it felt perfect.

Longer version behind the cut. Spoilers for the film. )
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I haven't seen this particular picture or its accompanying discussion anywhere on my flist, and I would have thought it would have polarized folk! Had to wait until I turned the pages of a magazine, what's up with that?

An image from Half-Blood Prince in Entertainment Weekly featuring Draco. Spoilery for the film. )
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Bad fan: Didn't make special post for Harry's birthday.

Good fan: Shelled out the pre-order cash for the special edition Tales of Beedle the Bard in a HEARTBEAT.

So, today, I balance out to "fan."
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Saw the trailer proper; yes, it looks pretty (Dumbledore's head not withstanding). I'm expecting to like the film; I see many opportunities for these final three films to repair the weaknesses in the final two books.

I would like to make a clever analogy that explains why HBP disappoints me, like, perhaps, "HBP is The Magician's Nephew of the series." Except it's not true. I liked The Magician's Nephew quite a bit, even if it introduces us to characters we don't know--or that we think we don't know, until later--because it's an active tale, not an expository one. It doesn't give me the sense of "You couldn't have explained this in two pages? You couldn't have explained this in two pages four books ago?" that HBP does. Pensieve exposition is still exposition.

The trailer really brings home how little--how little of importance, anyway--Harry has to do in this book.
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God help me, I am trapped in Dilbert Hell. Something is wonky with my workplace's wireless internet, but in order for them to reboot their servers or routers or what have you, it has to go to higher administrative off-site echelons and be approved, which I'm told will take days to get the approval. If that even turns out to solve the problem. Meanwhile I am using dial-up. DIAL-UP. At least I made sure they never got rid of those analog phone access points.

But, I promised frivolity, didn't I? So here's a picture which made me snort caffeine-free diet coke up my nose.

(The Essential Ingredient, featuring Snape and a hippo, by Protowilson)

This is hardly strong evidence of how desperately work-related my need to have the high-speed wireless restablished is, but, foo. I'm taking my stress relievers where I can.
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I said that the line about Draco Malfoy having been the Elder Wand's master was the "aha" moment for me; in looking through the text a little more (I told you I was tired) I'm recalling it was an "aha" moment--I'd forgotten, as we're supposed to, about Draco disarming Dumbledore--but the "aha" moment which preceded that was when Voldemort made his explanation to Snape. Voldemort says, "The Elder Wand belongs to the wizard who killed its last owner," and I took that to be the revelation that the wand transfers its power to that wizard's wand. Later the text says of Voldemort:
"It was time to leave this shack and take charge, with a wand that would now do his full bidding."
I never thought that meant anything other than that Voldemort took Snape's wand, thinking Snape's wand was now the Elder Wand. And, yes, that that meant the wand Voldemort was using from that point on was Snape's wand. Since I was wrong in that, do we know what happened to Snape's wand?

I still like the idea that Draco Malfoy was wandering around with this powerful wand all that time and didn't know it, because he's, y'know, Draco Malfoy. And that Harry took the wand from him and therefore took possession of the Elder Wand but didn't know what he had for a while either--that's what I had got from the line "who had come to take full possession of it at last"--acknowledgement, true acceptance of what he held. It feels more satisfying than the idea that the Elder Wand's sitting in Voldemort's hand but realizes that somewhere far off Harry has simply nicked a non-significant wand out of Draco's grasp and that makes the Elder Wand shift allegiance. Not quite sure I'm buying it yet, though technically I can see how it works.

It does make more sense now that I'm told "elder" can be a kind of wood, which is a better argument that the wand is fixed. I assumed "Elder" as a title, in the sense of "elder brother"--first-come, first-ruling, oldest and most senior. The first time we hear the word is within The Tale of the Three Brothers: "So Death crossed to an elder tree on the banks of the river..." From the high-toned prose of the story I assumed that was poetic-speak for "ancient tree." But elder is short, it seems, for elderberry?
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Fascinating. When I read the words, "The master of the Elder Wand was Draco Malfoy," in DH, everything became plain as day to me: how the Elder Wand is not a fixed wand, but transfers its abilities to the wand which wins the duel. Which is why Voldemort's attempt to take the wand from Dumbledore's corpse was useless, because Dumbledore's wand was no longer the Elder Wand--the power had transferred to Draco's wand, and since Harry defeated Draco without a wand (Harry's was broken at the time, and he just physically overpowered and took the wand from Draco) the power of the Elder Wand simply stayed in that wand, and then acknowledged Harry as its master. I thought it was clever and satisfying.

Except it wasn't right. It works--it's a potential interpretation of the events, except for one bit in the text that counters it: the text identifies the wand that flies into the air in the very last Voldemort-Harry duel as "the Elder Wand" and from context that wand is the one which was in Voldemort's hand. If not for that it could have been valid, I think. Evidently JKR's interpretation of "The master of the Elder Wand was Draco Malfoy" was that Draco was the wand's master but he never actually took possession of it, and when Harry defeated Draco Harry became the wand's master but he didn't lay hands on it either until that final moment in the duel with Voldemort.

*yawns* I'm too tired to think of anything else except that I like my first version better.
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Since DH I have seen a number of fanfiction stories that deal with Harry returning Draco's wand to him, as if it were just a kindness or a gesture, which has left me puzzled and wondering if these writers have missed something in DH. Draco's wand is the Elder Wand, which Harry says he will put away and not use, anticipating that if he dies a natural death the wand's power will be broken. Harry can't return Draco's wand to him without addressing that that wand is the Elder Wand. Am I the one who's confused?
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[ profile] woman_ironing, on [ profile] hp_essays, invites readers to discuss their disappointments on Deathly Hallows (in hopes that it may salvage dismissal of the entire series, and lead to a second look at DH), and I seem to be on a roll after my epilogue post. I've posted my summary points on DH disappointments (and positives) here and here on her post, but I'm also going to repost it below if anyone would like to engage in discussion here.

Structure problems and positives in Deathly Hallows

1. We've been set up for Snape to play a significant role, but instead get vast exposition on an already-dead character.

My disappointment with DH began with the previous book; HBP displayed from the second chapter that Snape was loyal to the Order and playing a dangerous double agent game, and would soon be required to do a terrible thing to keep his cover or be killed himself. I was dumbfounded when this was treated like some great surprise at the end of the book; while it deserved to be one climactic moment of the book, the true climax should have been the revelation to Harry that Snape and Dumbledore had planned the deception together. If the reader was told this at the beginning of the book, Harry should also have been told it by the end of the book. Leaving Harry in ignorance is poor narrative structure; the tale cannot be left to dangle like that, incomplete, at the end of a book.

Given that this plotline turned out to be the most significant part of HBP, whetting our appetites with Snape going into deep cover, DH should have followed through. In HBP Snape went from "side character who's loathsome but interesting" to "the other hero of the story." Snape should have played a significant role in the structure of DH, but instead he all but disappeared until a few pages before his death. While there are moments where his influence is there--Gryffindor's sword in the pond--they are invisible until after Snape has died. Only then is his story told, in one massive chapter of exposition.

What do we get instead of Snape's presence? We get, to my disappointment, considerable exposition regarding the life of Dumbledore--Dumbledore, who is dead. Again, poor narrative structure. The controversy surrounding Dumbledore is unfolded for us after he is dead. Snape's backstory is only told after he is dead. We no longer have any stake in what this means to the future actions of these characters, to their interactions with our protagonist. How different this knowledge would have resounded with us had these characters still been alive when we learned this! How we would have imagined Harry confronting Dumbledore, how much hope we would have had for Snape's survival (and how much more devastating his death), had we only known these things first. They would have been active portions of the story structure instead of past-tense exposition.

2. A change from the expected story structure established through six books--and not a well-executed change, either.

DH also disappoints by abandoning the school year structure that books one through six follow. Because of this DH feels like a book from a different series. We are used to the Harry Potter series being a tale of student interactions, knowledge gained through classes and textbooks, and contrivances by our heroes that are used to get around the restrictions of school rules and the school year itself. The last book abandons that, and that violation of reader expectations should not be forgiven lightly. DH could be considered an alternate reality story of the Harry Potter series, where the characters are placed into a high-fantasy quest story. One can argue whether it is a good quest story or not; I do not feel it is that good of one, myself, what with the time wasted doing nothing in the forest, the "madcap hijinks" feel of the trio's escapades (too silly right when the books should be at their darkest and most serious), and the flimsy contrivance to set the final battle at Hogwarts. These leech a great deal of dignity from the book, even the moments that are meant to be somber, such as Dobby's death. But whether it is a good quest story or not, it is a deviation from the structure that the reader has been asked to expect and now does expect.

3. Lack of emotional engagement in Harry's romantic destiny.

Both HBP and DH disappointed me in the romantic plotline regarding Harry and Ginny by failing to show their connection and/or affection for each other; instead we were told Harry was struck by sudden jealous lust for her, and this is all we have to support the concept of these two having a lifelong love. They may be right for each other conceptually, but there's nothing to make the reader feel it.

A positive! How Harry has been set up both to die and to live.

Despite all these negatives, one element within DH--arguably the most important and central element--shines through as well-planned and well-executed. At the end of book four, GoF, we are given a hint of something significant in Dumbledore's "gleam of something like triumph" when he is told Voldemort used Harry's blood for the ritual. We don't know why. We're left to think about it all through books five and six. And when we get the payoff, it's big. Harry learns he holds a fragment of Voldemort's soul (hinted at when we first learn of Horcruxes), and must die for Voldemort to die. But he does not know until after his death that his blood in Voldemort's flesh maintains enough of a link to return Harry to life if he chooses. It's wonderful--the theme of the entire series is that some things are worse than death and many things are worth death and death should not be feared if it must be faced. Harry has been groomed by Dumbledore to go to his death willing and unflinching, and go he does. The theme of the books required that he do this at the end. Yet he is saved from death not by a cheap cheat in my opinion, but by an element that has been established from the first book and hinted at, in a clever yet still obscure manner, in the fourth. Harry both dies and lives within this tale, and while it might have been gutsy to leave him dead there's a narrative justice that he goes willingly to his death but is allowed a happy ending.
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The epilogue to Deathly Hallows is the sort of thing I should like. Seriously, in a good long story I love hearing who married whom and how many children they had and what their names were and what their lives were like. I eat that up with a spoon. On that level, yes, I do like the epilogue. I do not think it reads like bad fanfic, as some have criticised--I did not expect revelations to 2001: A Space Odyssey depths, I did not expect The Sixth Sense-level twists, in terms of their post-Voldemort lives. Ordinary, day-to-day, kid-raising lives. How deserving that Harry should have obtained something so plain and wonderful for himself. And we have concrete evidence that Harry grew to understand and forgive and even &hearts Severus Snape. So, yes, in principle, I do like the epilogue.

The epilogue does jar me in two significant ways, and in one I have a reader's eyes, and in the other I have a fanfiction writer's.

1. Harry/Ginny is dreadful.

2. Bitch chewed up nineteen years of my fanon.

Does any of that need much explanation? The romance of Harry and Ginny sucks. Harry feels nothing whatsoever for Ginny for five books--any moments of interaction they have are devoid of any emotional engagement on Harry's part--and then we are, violation of all storytelling violations, told that Harry suddenly feels passionately for Ginny. I don't give a shit if that's how romance happens in real life. Storytelling doesn't have shit to do with "how it happens in real life." Storytelling is about engaging the reader as the narrative is spun. Storytelling is about making it happen and making the reader feel as the protagonist feels without trying to tell the reader how to feel. Harry/Ginny does none of these. Harry/Ginny is shitty romance, and the epilogue throws that in my face yet again. (Wow, that's three uncensored "shit"s in one paragraph. Don't hold back, Amy, tell us how you really feel.)

And it's the fanfiction theorist--I include fanartists in that, because their work creates fanfiction in graphic form--who gets upset over the shutting-off of nineteen years of open canon. The "whatever you want to imagine it to be from this point on," cut short. Nineteen years. That entire stretch of narrative boxed in by that epilogue. Restricted. Caged! How dare she! Attica! Attica! Azkaban! Azkaban!

I mean, I would like to whine that the epilogue is all so unabashedly heterosexual, isn't it, but that's just an extension of "Give me back those nineteen years so that I can correct that crappy romance and add all the other stuff I like to imagine instead." Can't fight that scene. Can write around it if you want--can get damn clever in writing around it--but it's canon. Epilogue What Epilogue has become its own dominant AU subspecies, and no wonder. Epilogue no fun. Epilogue go 'way.

So I think the fanfiction kind of fan is more likely to dislike the epilogue than the casual fan, for reason that it makes our sandbox tinier. Though I think both kinds can have the taste to hate the Harry/Ginny for just being blah.
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It will be mine.

Oh, yes, it will be mine.
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[ profile] themostepotente has a poll on her lj in which one of the questions asks, "If Rowling had chosen another male character [to be gay] in place of Dumbledore, who[m] do you wish it had been?"

I'm pretty happy with Dumbledore, myself. I mean, the most powerful wizard in centuries? The hero's mentor and most important father figure? (Yeah, I know, I still want Sirius to have been Harry's most important father figure, but that's me and my little world.) Deathly Hallows demonstrates that Rowling saw the books as being nearly as much about Dumbledore as about Harry (again I would have liked them to be more about Snape than Dumbledore but again that's another visit to Amy World), and for her to have crafted that particular character knowing that his sexuality leaned that way--well, yeah, I am pretty happy about that choice.

In fairness, sure, I'd pick Harry first. God, just imagine. Harry ends up kissing Draco Malfoy instead of Ginny Weasley. I'd have died of an ecstatic brain hemorrhage. Of course, that would have required a rewrite of the last two books--all to the good, because the Harry/Ginny romance remains gag-worthy (and not, repeat, NOT because it's het).

But I wouldn't pick Snape because I wouldn't want Snape to be "the gay one" all alone. It would suck for me, thinking, "Oh, great--Snape, the one who's sullen, dark, sneaky, grudge-holding, unfair, hated, picked on--let's get a few more negative stereotypes in here, shall we?" Shylockian, I would have called it. Whereas outing Dumbledore--Dumbledore, despite his not-so-pristine past and manipulative ways, comes off as fabulous. Stereotype, yes, but at least a positive one. Still stands on its own outside of that closet and happily kicks your ass if you protest. I mean, yes, I love Snape and imagine him as gayer than a treeful of monkeys but I want him to be outed with somebody, if that makes sense. In fact, by outing Dumbledore, it does call his intimacies with Snape into question. But by implying "Snape with Dumbledore," homosexuality would not be read as just one more dark aspect of Snape's character, done in this way.

Lupin, on the other hand, would have been fascinating. Imagine Rowling saying, "Lupin was not merely conflicted about his romance with Tonks because he thought he was too old and too poor." Imagine what that would have invited. Lupin got married despite having other leanings, became resigned to it after his son was born because it had brought at least one wonderful thing into his world. The idea rankles because it wears a little sheen of "reproduction good, so maybe gayness not so good" upon it--but it invites one to see bisexuality and homosexuality within the text even where there appears to be happy heteronormativity between couples. Loaded. Hugely loaded. But fascinating.

I feel about Sirius the same way I feel about Snape--don't let him be gay alone; put someone with him and I'd be happy. (Like Snape.) Yet it's not because of Sirius being thought of as a dark character, though--I wouldn't have liked the idea that he was conveniently killed off so that no one would have to resolve the idea of him being both gay and a parent/older brother/best buds figure to Harry. As if it were punishment. If he'd been paired with someone--Snape, Remus--then devoting that degree of depth in the story to two gay characters might have erased those "punishment" feelings. So it isn't just a good guys/bad guys thing here, in terms of whom to de-closet and what would avoid the negative stereotypes. Draco could have been gay and I wouldn't have winced. Lucius? Heck, Lucius would rival Dumbledore in fabulosity.

But I do like that it's a good guy, and a hugely significant character, and the most powerful wizard in ages. Yeah.

April 2017



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