["Hedwig's Theme" plays]
Andrew: Because we won't judge a book by its cover, this is MuggleCast Episode 252 for April 23rd, 2012.
[Show music begins]
Andrew: This week's episode is brought to you by Audible.com, the Internet's leading provider of audiobooks, with more than 100,000 downloadable titles across all types of literature, including fiction, non-fiction, and periodicals. For a free audiobook of your choice, go to AudiblePodcast.com/MuggleCast.
[Show music continues]
Andrew: Welcome to MuggleCast Episode 252! Andrew, Eric, Micah - that first one is me, by the way. I'm Andrew.
Andrew: And a new host this year. You may recognize her if you listen to some of the other podcasts we do. Maybe Game of Owns, maybe Hunger Games Chat, maybe Secret Diaries Chat.
Andrew: Selina Wilken, hailing from Sweden. Hello, Selina.
Selina: Hi, Andrew. [laughs]
Andrew: Good to have you on MuggleCast.
Selina: I'm glad to be here, thank you.
Andrew: You're penetrating all the podcasts.
Selina: I am.
Andrew: It's too much!
Selina: It's like a virus.
Andrew: Get out of here!
Selina: The Swedish virus.
Andrew: No, we wanted to have you on because you'll be joining us at LeakyCon this summer, and we need an international host and a female host. So you kill two birds with one stone.
Selina: Yeah! Exactly. Hopefully people will be happy that I can represent the whole world and all the women!
[Eric and Selina laugh]
Andrew: Exactly. [laughs]
Micah: Well, I'm glad we keep the Sweden joke running on the show.
Selina: [laughs] I know.
Eric: Across shows.
Andrew: But as always, we're here to talk about Harry Potter on this podcast. And there's lots of interesting news, actually, going on with J.K. Rowling. It was a huge week for J.K. Rowling, about two weeks ago now. So we're going to talk about all the announcements that she dropped in a period of, like, four days. And also, J.K. Rowling is not the only Harry Potter person who may be writing a new book. Hmm? So we'll talk about that in a little bit as well.
Micah: Are you writing a book?
Andrew: No. Are you?
Micah: Well, that narrows it.
Andrew: From Hypable, I'm Andrew Sims.
Eric: From MuggleNet, I'm Eric Scull.
Micah: From MuggleNet, I'm Micah Tannenbaum.
Selina: And from Hypable, I am Selina Wilken.
Andrew: So Micah, what is in the news this week?
Micah: Well Andrew, you said it was a big week. Probably about two weeks ago...
Andrew: I did say that.
Micah: ...at this point...
Micah: ...for J.K. Rowling. And just a lot of news from her, and we hadn't heard from her in quite a while other than the random tweets that she would...
Micah: ...post on her Twitter feed. You didn't think I was going to let that slip by? I had the opportunity and I just seized it right there.
Eric: Good for you.
Andrew: So now... [laughs]
Micah: I still don't follow her on Twitter, by the way.
Selina: Aww. [laughs]
Micah: But this proves that when big news is announced, I still found out about it.
Micah: I didn't have to follow her on Twitter.
Andrew: You didn't need her.
Selina: She didn't tweet about any of this, did she?
Andrew: She retweeted Pottermore, I think.
Eric: I think she said, "FYI," right? And then linked to her website or something? It was a ridiculous tweet. She didn't use even half of the 140 characters she could have.
Andrew: Yeah, she retweeted Pottermore. She - oh no, that was in March. She retweeted Little, Brown, about the new novel. And she said, "My new author website is now live."
Micah: That probably got them...
Andrew: She really is boring on Twitter, it's true.
Micah: You think that got them a few followers?
Selina: No hashtags? Nothing?
Andrew: I have to say, she is probably - honestly, and somebody - if anybody could prove me wrong, please feel free to let me know. But she may be the most boring Twitter person with over a million followers.
Andrew: Who has a million people at their command and is so boring on Twitter?
[Eric and Selina laugh]
Eric: Boring mixed with non-existent.
Micah: She did say...
Eric: She has no presence there.
Micah: She created the account to basically...
Eric: Ward off all the posers.
Selina: Fakers, yeah.
Micah: Exactly, thanks. That's what I was trying to say.
Andrew: Okay, but a couple of months ago I wrote a list of ways she could easily improve this Twitter account to make it very - to make it entertaining!
Selina: She didn't even retweet that or anything!
Selina: What is she doing? [laughs]
Andrew: Right. Well no, no, I'm not saying she should retweet them.
Selina: Yeah, yeah, I know.
Andrew: I'm saying she should...
Selina: Read them.
Andrew: ...do what I said! [laughs]
Eric: I've got to look that list up. I'm sure it'll be great, but...
Andrew: It's stuff like throwing in little tidbits about the Harry Potter books, quotes - throw in quotes about Harry Potter. Those would get retweeted a million times. Quotes from the Harry Potter books. Little stuff like that. Do a Q&A. I mean, come on. The possibilities are endless. It's very easy.
Micah: Why so passionate about Twitter, though? That's what I want to know. Because clearly there are other things like Facebook where people probably pose as her, and other places around the Internet. Why did she pick Twitter out of everything to kind of validate herself on?
Andrew: I don't know.
Andrew: I don't know.
Before we continue with the show, we'd like to remind you that this episode is brought to you by Audible.com, the Internet's leading provider of audiobooks, with more than 100,000 downloadable titles across all types of literature and featuring audio versions of many New York Times Bestsellers. For our listeners, Audible is offering a free audiobook to give you a chance to try out their great service. One audiobook to consider is The Sea of Monsters: Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 2. This book is actually being turned into a film right now, starring Logan Lerman, and the film is due out March 26th, 2013. So that gives you plenty of time to listen to this book, where Percy Jackson finds his seventh-grade school year unnervingly quiet. His biggest problem is dealing with his new friend Tyson, a six-foot-three, mentally-challenged, homeless kid who follows Percy everywhere, making it hard for Percy to have any 'normal' friends, this after a summer spent trying to prevent a catastrophic war among the Greek gods. So for a free audiobook, like The Sea of Monsters, visit AudiblePodcast.com/MuggleCast. Again, that's AudiblePodcast.com/MuggleCast for your free audiobook.
Micah: The Casual Vacancy has been announced as J.K. Rowling's next project, and the book will be released on Thursday, September 27th. And there's a brief synopsis here that was actually posted on Little, Brown Agency's website. Who wants to read it?
Eric: So it's not called The Lairs of Lady Po?
Micah: [laughs] No, it's not. But...
Selina: That was a bit of a better title. [laughs]
Micah: Oh. Well, thank you!
Eric: Oh thanks, Selina. You're talking to the two guys who came up with it. [laughs] I'll read it.
Andrew: So here's the...
Eric: Do you want me to read it?
Andrew: Oh, you have it?
Eric: Yeah, I've got it.
"'The Casual Vacancy'
When Barry Fairweather dies unexpectedly in his early forties, the little town of Pagford is left in shock.
Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty façade is a town at war.
Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils...Pagford is not what it first seems.
And the empty seat left by Barry on the parish council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity and expected revelations?"
"...and unexpected revelations?
Blackly comic, thought-provoking and constantly surprising, 'The Casual Vacancy' is J.K. Rowling's first novel for adults."
Selina: I'm sorry...
Andrew: I think this sounds really good. I think this synopsis gets me excited for it. It sounds intelligent. It sounds witty.
Eric: You know what I'm going to say, Andrew? Barry? Really?
Andrew: Yeah, Barry...
Selina: [laughs] I know. And Padfoot? Or whatever the town is called?
Eric: Pagford? When I read...
Andrew: Well - but Barry is actually a pretty minor character because it looks like he dies at the beginning.
Andrew: Which is - Barry and - maybe Jo is saying, "I've moved on from Harry."
Andrew: Barry, Harry.
Eric: Because I'm going to kill off...
Andrew: They both die.
Eric: Barry character. Yeah, you're right. This synopsis reminded me of the first chapter of the fourth book of Harry Potter, where she's talking about the residents of Little Hangleton.
Selina: That is a good point.
Eric: Or Upper Hangleton. And how they hate each other and the bar is full of these people who are disingenuous. That's what this reminded me of, and so - I don't know, that's what I liked about it, I guess, is that it seemed kind of familiar and that it would be like a whole book based on - or a whole book that is kind of like the first one. I leave it up to her to surprise me and make it different, because I'm sure she will.
Eric: It's going to be a really riveting book, I think.
Selina: I mean, it definitely has that J.K. Rowling feel when you just read that description. You can tell it was written by J.K. Rowling or even - I don't know if you guys know this author, but he's called Jeff Ford. It kind of reminded me - he's a big author, a British author. It kind of reminded me of one of his books, actually, which is interesting. But - it just does. But at the same time, it almost sounds like a story set in the Muggle world but it's kind of the same world. Obviously that's not what it is, but because it's so similar to something, as you said, that we could have read about Little Hangleton, you know?
Selina: I'm not sure that's a good thing. I'm really excited for this book, but at the same time, I don't know.
Andrew: Now, it doesn't seem like this is going to be a series.
Andrew: Right? And that was a question a lot of people were wondering, if Jo's next book would be the start of another series. But it doesn't seem like it, unless each book in the series, somebody leaves the...
Eric: The parish council? [laughs]
Andrew: Right, the council. And they've got to find somebody new.
Eric: No, I think...
Andrew: Right, so no series.
Selina: Can I ask, what - [laughs] as a non-English native speaker, what is a casual vacancy? Is it something?
Andrew: Well, the vacancy would be the spot that's open left by Barry Fairweather. The casual part, I think - maybe it just means this vacancy on the council is quite standard but there's a big deal...
Eric: Surrounding it.
Andrew: The vacancy is actually a big deal, yeah.
Andrew: Does that make sense?
Selina: It makes kind of sense, yeah.
Andrew: It's kind of sarcastic.
Eric: Like I guess if you're in an elected position, you're going out anyway in a couple of years.
Andrew: And you would think it would be pretty simple to replace the person, but...
Eric: Yeah, I think it's tongue-in-cheek that it's casual, because clearly...
Eric: ...this one guy leaving for that reason has caused the whole town to go up in arms.
Andrew: Overall, though, I do agree, it is a pretty bland title.
Selina: It's a very passive title.
Selina: 'Casual' and 'vacancy'. It's kind of like, "Huh." [laughs]
Eric: Somebody is not there.
Selina: It's not like "The Very Exciting Empty Space" or something. You know what I mean? [laughs]
Eric: Yeah. Yeah, she's...
Andrew: Maybe that's why the synopsis opens up with the name of a character so you can get some sort of direct connection to this. Because, honestly, the first week I had serious trouble remembering the title.
Andrew: I kept saying, "The casual - the casual - the casual what?" So yeah, this is - I guess it's an adult book title.
Eric: One of the...
Selina: It's very British as well.
Eric: Well, that should be a good thing then, that she hasn't lost her identity living up there in Scotland. But I think, too, the other thing - the other book that this reminds me of, or it sounds like to me. There's a book by Stephen King who has - he and J.K. Rowling have a little bit of a relationship. He's written in all of her books and stuff. And we saw them together - Andrew and Micah - in New York. But one of his books called Needful Things is this excellent book. Of course he did write a series set in this fictional town of Castle Rock, Maine, and at the very end of it this...
Micah: Caster the Rock?
Selina: Casa Rock, yeah. [laughs]
Eric: No, Castle Rock. Which is why when you guys say that on Game of Owns, I'm like, "Oh my God, it's just like Stephen King." So Castle Rock - anyway, this last book that he wrote set in this town, Needful Things - basically this guy opens up shop here and learns all the secrets that everybody in the whole town is hiding and uses it - and their prejudices against one another and uses it against them to literally destroy the town, which is really cool. But it reminded me of that.
Andrew: So are you guys excited for this book? After reading the summary, now we've got the title, there was all this hoopla in the Harry Potter fandom.
Eric: Well Andrew, you wrote that news post that said, "Will there be midnight parties for it?"
Eric: What do you think now? Do you think The Casual Vacancy is...
Andrew: I still think so.
Eric: ...too boring a title to...
Andrew: No. No, I don't think that that will affect it at all. I mean, booksellers, I think, want to get in on this excitement, too. So - and one way to do that would be to have midnight-release parties.
Selina: Well, I'm super-excited because, as much as sort of I agreed with you, Andrew - when I first heard the title, it was kind of like, "Oh my God, new book!" And then like, "Okay." [laughs] You had that moment of going, "Oh, Casual Vacancy." But now - I mean, if nothing else, however well this book does - I'm sure it's going to do amazing - but whatever I think of this book, it is going to mean the continuation of the Potter fandom. I mean, the fact that J.K. Rowling is writing a new book, almost...
Andrew: And here's a question...
Selina: ...no matter what it's about. You know what I mean?
Andrew: Yeah. Here's a question: Does the Harry Potter fandom morph into something else?
Selina: No, I think it will always be the Potter fandom.
Andrew: Or will we always call it the Harry Potter fandom? Or do we call it something else? I mean, does it one day become the J.K. Rowling fandom?
Eric: Well, it would have to be, right? If it's no longer about Harry Potter.
Selina: I don't know.
Eric: But that's the thing. We're so touched by the Harry Potter books, but we have to - we can't necessarily separate the Harry Potter books from J.K. Rowling, the author who wrote them. So a large portion of us will be following her through everything else she writes.
Eric: And we'll expect to be spoken to in the same way that the Harry Potter - and I'm not saying that this is Jo's fault or even anything she can control. I'm saying I think that a huge portion of us will just be watching her every move because very early on, her first works got us so hooked up into her writing that now there's no way she can do this book without it having the attention of almost every Harry Potter fan.
Eric: Even though I don't think it's going to have even a reference to Harry Potter in it, and it shouldn't.
Micah: That's a great point though, because I had done an interview where somebody had asked, "What do you think the success of this series is going to -" I shouldn't say 'series' "- this book is going to be with respect to Harry Potter?" And I said there's no way that you can come close to the success of Potter. This book is not going to do as well. You're not going to have the same readership, in my opinion. You're going to lose people from Potter because this is a completely different genre that she's going into, but she may pick up some other people who are interested in this kind of a story, which seems to be a political thriller or a mystery of some sort. So I think there's going to be drop-off. You're not going to have the same base of people that are going to continue on to read her work moving forward if it differs from that fantasy world that she has created.
Selina: Yeah, and I totally agree with that and I think - to further what Eric said, I think that people will - we will, all of us, will obviously follow J.K. Rowling to whatever she does and I think many of her fans will. But I think we will always be the Harry Potter fandom. I don't think we will become The Casual Vacancy fandom. [laughs] That just sounds dumb.
Selina: You know what I mean? We will always - because Harry Potter is what brought us all into this conglomeration of all this stuff that we do, and I think that, yeah, we will follow J.K. Rowling, we will follow Daniel Radcliffe, but it will always be because of Harry Potter.
Micah: But Andrew, you asked before also about how the title sounded and if people could sort of rally behind it, but what do you think ten years ago, twelve years ago, people thought about Harry Potter? Do you think that there was ever that thought that, "Ehh, that sounds like a cool thing maybe some people can get behind"? Or "How stupid does that title sound"?
Micah: "Who would ever be interested in that?"
Micah: I mean, that's kind of the same thing you're saying about her new work, as well.
Selina: That's true.
Andrew: Yeah, it still...
Micah: It doesn't have that feeling to it, necessarily.
Andrew: Right, there has to be a brand built around it. But I think the problem people have with Casual Vacancy is it's not a character title. It is very bland. For now.
Eric: I'm glad that it's bland. It's her first novel for adults. [laughs]
Andrew: Bland and generic, in a way. Yet a little clever, as we were just talking about.
Andrew: Like Eric said, it's tongue-in-cheek and I agree with that completely. So yes, I think Casual Vacancy, the brand itself, will kind of grow and everybody will be like, "Wow, that title was actually so great."
Micah: Don't judge a book by its title, in this case.
Selina: [laughs] The title.
Andrew: Yes, exactly.
Selina: I had a really quick question for you guys I just thought of about this book. When you read the description, do you get any feel for what time period this is set in at all? Like, is it present time? Is it fifty years ago?
Eric: See, I...
Micah: They talk about war. I don't know if that's just her getting creative with language. I don't really think there's actual war going on where...
Micah: ...it's like The Hunger Games and people...
Selina: [laughs] Right.
Micah: ...are fighting against each other. I think it's more...
Selina: [laughs] Futuristic.
Micah: ...political war. But it'll be interesting to see how that dynamic plays out, because it seems like everybody is pitted against each other. And we've seen strong political undertones in her work. I think about that first chapter of Half-Blood Prince when she makes reference to what a lot of people thought was President Bush at the time, and kind of how he's this incompetent individual. I forget the exact line from that chapter but there's a lot throughout the series, not just that book. It's going to be interesting to see how much politics play into this, because it seems like a lot.
Eric: Yeah, I don't know enough about British society to be able to deduce if this book summary sounds current, because I don't know if - there's a small - so she says it's a small English town called Pagford where the parish council - everything revolves around a parish council seat. I don't know how many small towns still care about that stuff, necessarily. That might be...
Selina: I think they do.
Eric: I don't mean to be offensive by that.
Selina: Mhm. I think definitely it could be.
Eric: Yeah, I'm sure they do, which is why - but I don't - I just don't know.
Selina: It sounds a bit like the present of the Harry Potter novels again - obviously, to draw an obvious comparison - but it's the kind of present where Dudley plays on a PlayStation and where - it's present day but it's also dated...
Eric: Removed a little bit?
Selina: ...at the same time. Yeah. Does that makes sense?
Andrew: Yeah. So the book comes out September 27th. I do think there will be midnight release parties. You can already preorder it on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
Micah: How much?
Andrew: I think - let me check again. It was discounted like Amazon usually does.
Andrew: It's 21 dollars, discounted from 35. So that's actually still pretty pricey.
Eric: September 27th is a Thursday. Is that supposed to be - so is it a Wednesday night release date?
Andrew: Do books normally come out that day of the week?
Eric: I mean, I assume Fridays, but Thursday is the 27th. I assume they're not giving us the 27th at midnight, which means the 28th. They mean the 27th.
Andrew: Now, if I do recall, Harry Potter books did come out on Saturdays, correct?
Eric: Yeah, Friday into Saturday.
Andrew: For the midnight release parties.
Andrew: And again, they're not designing this book around...
Andrew: Or the release of the book around midnight release parties. I think Thursday is just fine.
Eric: Thursday. So we're going to be out on Wednesday, hump day, school night. [laughs]
Andrew: And the book...
Eric: Already there's less kids going to do it.
Andrew: Right. The book is 480 pages.
Andrew: So it's a sizable tome...
Eric: That is a tome.
Andrew: ...that we're working with.
Andrew: No cover yet, but there's a nice picture of J.K. Rowling on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. It's a relatively new photo I think taken recently for publicity for the new book. And currently number 22 Amazon Bestsellers rank in the Books category, number 22. So that's pretty good, actually, considering preorders started like a week ago and it's still hanging in that spot. I wish I kept an eye on that rank to see it move up and down.
Micah: To answer your question though, Eric, it says that parish councils are in about 35 percent of England.
Eric: Look at that. Well - so what is it?
Micah: That's according to Wikipedia.
Eric: It's not parish like I think, right? It's not religion?
Selina: Well it is, but it's...
Micah: No, it has a religious tie.
Selina: Mhm. It is more - obviously, it is a political system. But it is one of the rural setups and it is based on the church, but I don't think - it's not about the church, if that makes sense.
Eric: Kind of like a youth group.
Micah: Well, they have the power to raise taxes, it says.
Selina: [laughs] So it's a big war.
Micah: All right, let's...
Eric: Well, rich against poor, right? And teens against parents?
Micah: Too much theorizing going on already.
Click here to go to page two