By Rachel Krueger
As though the tenterhooks weren’t tight enough for Harry Potter 7.2: The One Where It Actually Ends, the Rowling megalith taunted its fans last week with the mysterious offer of . . . Pottermore.
Pottermore, the powers promised, was a Thing That Was Not A Book But Was Still Very Great And Seekrit. Said powers gave the masses about a week to stew and ponder before revealing the actual Pottermore, a sort of interactive online game wherein players are sorted by the Sorting Hat and chased by Dementors or whatever. Also, the books are joining the rest of 2011 and being released as ebooks. So, that’s neat.
Pottermore’s eventual manifestation is less interesting, however, than the anticipatory buzz. In the pre-online days, if you’d heard Something New And Seeekritive was coming out, you and your buddies would come up with a few half-baked theories about Harry Potter Action Figures, and then you would chase a hoop with a stick down to the swimming hole. Your speculative powers were limited to your social circle and the spare time and concern therein.
The intarweb accrues that spare time and multiplies it a squillion-fold. No sooner had Pottermore graced the interwaves than people began hollering out ideas. It’s a theme park! It’s an MMORPG! A Harry Potter Cast World Tour! A remake of all the movies where they LITERALLY LEAVE NOTHING OUT so the movies are, like, two weeks long. AN ACTUAL WIZARDING SCHOOL. Interest was, as they say, piqued.
And Pottermore is actually kind of a rad thing, if you’re into the Potterverse. It may even be as cool as any of the best ideas that were shouted into the inter-ether. But it isn’t cooler than all those things combined, which would be the only way to blow anyone’s mind after a week of rampant speculation unhampered by budgetary or practical concerns (the potential non-existence of magic, e.g.). Imaginations ran wild and they ran everywhere, whereas the real Pottermore could only ever go in one or two directions without becoming an unwieldy mess.
Ultimately fans will be delighted because more HP is still more HP, even if it isn’t a world tour. But this same phenomenon is what killed the finale of “Lost” (okay, well, that and it being a sort of shitty finale). Years of speculation had raised expectations too high while simultaneously killing off the element of surprise. Literally anything they did would have been predicted on someone’s blog somewhere and come off as an obvious choice.
Buzz is an unwieldy beast, and as much as it generates interest it can result in disappointment with the final product. The blurb for Chris Cleave’s 2008 novel, Little Bee, ran along the lines of “we can’t tell you anything about this plot and shit, because that would RUIN IT, and once you read it and haaaaave to tell your friends, don’t tell THEM either unless you are a Ruinous Bastard.” This vague and enticing lure drove expectations for what is just a Very Good Book About Suffering But With No Twists Or Surprises Necessitating Such Seekretive Marketing to unachievable heights, which the book couldn’t possibly hit.
The week of hallucinatory speculations for Pottermore likely won’t dent its popularity in the long run, and it’s near enough to the best, realistic guesses to soothe the savage muggles. But in some lonely basement at least one HP superfan is legitimately disappointed that it isn’t a wizarding school.