Geek Lit Throwdown: Orson Scott Card Takes On J.K. Rowling

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Betheshoe_2Betheshoe_2 Who wouldn’t want to go to Hogwarts? Receive that fateful message – by owl, no less? Catch the train at Platform 9 ¾? Be sorted by a preternatural anthropomorphic hat? Lose one’s family in a tragic paranormal double-homicide and then be conscripted by the sheer force of providence into the ultimate battle of good versus evil?

Okay, maybe not that last one.

Still, if the growing prevalence of things like Wizard Rock, Potter-centric fan fiction, and conventions celebrating “The Boy Who Lived” are any indicator, the works of J.K. Rowling still pack a proper punch. Even now, when, after a staggering 10-year run, the Harry Potters books have fallen off the New York Times best-seller list, the force of fandom lives on. The relationship between Rowling and at least one member of her army of devotees, however, may be becoming a bit worse for wear.

Join the fray after the jump.

Last year, J.K. Rowling and Warner Brothers filed a lawsuit against RDR books seeking to block the release of The Harry Potter Lexicon, the print version of a fan-created online encyclopedia helmed by school librarian Steve Vander Ark. While RDR has assembled a defense team including Stanford Law’s Fair Use Project to fight the suit, Vander Ark, who apears to have aroused the ire of much of the vocal fan community, has recently received a vote of support from a seemingly unlikely ally.

Author Orson Scott Card blasted Rowling in Greensboro’s news and opinion weekly The Rhinoceros Times saying:

Can you believe that J.K. Rowling is suing a small publisher because she claims their 10,000-copy edition of The Harry Potter Lexicon, a book about Rowling’s hugely successful novel series, is just a "rearrangement" of her own material.

Rowling "feels like her words were stolen," said lawyer Dan Shallman.

Well, heck, I feel like the plot of my novel Ender’s Game was stolen by J.K. Rowling.

A young kid growing up in an oppressive family situation suddenly learns that he is one of a special class of children with special abilities, who are to be educated in a remote training facility where student life is dominated by an intense game played by teams flying in midair, at which this kid turns out to be exceptionally talented and a natural leader. He trains other kids in unauthorized extra sessions, which enrages his enemies, who attack him with the intention of killing him; but he is protected by his loyal, brilliant friends and gains strength from the love of some of his family members. He is given special guidance by an older man of legendary accomplishments who previously kept the enemy at bay. He goes on to become the crucial figure in a struggle against an unseen enemy who threatens the whole world.

This paragraph lists only the most prominent similarities between Ender’s Game and the Harry Potter series. My book was published in England many years before Rowling began writing about Harry Potter. Rowling was known to be reading widely in speculative fiction during the era after the publication of my book.

Card goes on to defend the Lexicon as falling “within the realm of scholarly comment,” and even states that he had contributed to a similar ancillary publication before the erupting brouhaha.

Though certainly no stranger to controversy or verbal sparring, Orson Scott Card’s words seem to carry a mega-dose of disdain, even for him. The question is: does he have a point?

While writing is a cannibalistic process – says the blogger, as he picks his teeth with the bones of his sources – at what point does something become derivative? While Card’s defense obviously walks the fine line of irate satire, what constitutes fair use in the face of such archetypal tales of daring-do?

Where does the GeekDad community stand on the matter of Harry Potter and the Leering Lexicon?

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