["Hedwig's Theme" plays]
Andrew: Because J.K. Rowling has a surprise for us that has made us gone cuckoo, this is MuggleCast Episode 267 for July 14th, 2013.
[Show music begins]
Andrew: Welcome to MuggleCast Episode 267. This is a special episode. Don't worry, this isn't going to count towards the final two. We decided that we would record a special episode because J.K. Rowling shocked the world on Saturday afternoon when she revealed…
Eric: Aunt Marge is gay.
Andrew: Yes, finally! I've waited for so long.
Andrew: My Pottermore hopes and dreams have come true, and we're here to analyze what it could mean for the future of Aunt Marge. No, J.K. Rowling revealed a new book, The Cuckoo's Calling. But even more shocking, it's been available in bookstores since late April.
Selina: I know. [laughs]
Andrew: She released it under a pseudonym, Robert Galbraith. Take that everyone who doubted my pronunciation. On Hypable, the people, were already… they were like, "I can't wait to see how Andrew pronounces it."
Andrew: I'm like, "Excuse me! Excuse me!"
Selina: I think it's [pronounces as "Gal-bryth"] Galbraith or something. Galbraith? Something Irish.
Eric: I would say [pronounces as "Gal-brith"] Galbraith.
Selina: [switches between pronouncing "Gal-brith" and "Gal-bryth"] Galbraith? Galbraith? Galbraith?
Eric: I would not say any of the "eyth" and the "ooth" and the…
Selina: No, I don't know where that's coming from.
Andrew: Well, since this person doesn't exist, neither does a proper pronunciation.
Selina: Fair enough.
Andrew: So everybody can say it how they want.
Eric: Everyone's a winner!
Micah: That was very well done.
Andrew: [laughs] So there's a lot to talk about. Everybody is very excited. It's been an exciting 24 hours as we all kind of learn tidbits about this book. How about… let's talk about initial reactions first. Micah, you had one of my favorite tweets yesterday.
Andrew: What went through your mind? Did you believe it at first?
Micah: Did I believe it?
Andrew: Believe that she actually released a book two and a half months ago and we didn't even know it.
Micah: Why not? I think the reaction you're referring to is that I said, I don't follow J.K. Rowling on Twitter yet I still found out that she released a new book. And…
Selina: I don't follow her either. Isn't it terrible?
Micah: Yes! Selina!
Selina: [laughs] I know.
Micah: See? There's two hosts for you. But I was just… it's pleasantly surprising that she did this and the book has been out, as you said, since April and nobody really caught onto it until, I guess, this writer at The Sunday Times decided to do a little bit of digging. But what surprises me… and I don't really know the track record for this, but she decided to use this pseudonym which is a male as opposed to doing it as a female, and I just wondered the reasoning behind that. Normally, I would think that your pseudonym would be specific to your gender, but I guess it doesn't have to be.
Selina: Oh no, it hardly ever is, actually.
Eric: I would think it would be potentially…
Micah: Is it really?
Eric: Yeah. I would think that it would be intentionally misleading.
Andrew: And some people are laughing because she's already gone by a male name before: J.K. Rowling.
Andrew: And now she's doing it again. [laughs]
Eric: Right, which is… yeah, because J.K. is the more masculine version. It could be either way.
Andrew: Eric and Selina, were either of you shocked? I was shocked.
Eric: Yeah. I mean…
Eric: …at first I didn't believe it, and there were people on Twitter I was following… basically it was during my job, I was out at work when I first saw the first tweets, and I read Hypable's article because you had that up lightning speed. And at first I wasn't sure if it was true or if… because who can say, right? If it's really, really true. I don't know if the statement from Jo was there yet, but at first we were just thinking, what if this is a really good marketing campaign by Robert Galbraith and his people who are getting this out there? It just… it felt like it needed more traction.
Eric: And then it… but within 15 minutes, it had that traction. Everybody was saying, "Oh my God. This is it."
Eric: And it was just so absurd that she would do this, but at the same time, so…
Andrew: So Jo.
Eric: It was so Jo. It made sense…
Selina: It was just so Jo, guys. [laughs]
Eric: When we later got the statement from her, it made… it was like, oh yeah, that makes sense. But it was rewarding to be able to actually just… I diverted myself. I drove a mile out of my way just to a Barnes and Noble… actually, I didn't drive out of my way. It was at the opposite end of the parking lot I was in, and went to Barnes and Noble and picked up two copies.
Micah: That's a very far drive for you.
Andrew: Yeah. Wow, some fan you are.
Selina: How hard for you.
Eric: It's a pretty big parking lot in Skokie. But anyway, I drove right across the street to Barnes and Noble and got two copies. They were already in stores.
Selina: Why did you get two?
Eric: One for my girlfriend.
Selina: Oh, okay.
Eric: But this is the greatest thing of all, about this reveal, is that the book… that we didn't have to wait for it.
Andrew: Right, right.
Eric: Instant gratification. Especially to ebook readers, ebook reader owners.
Eric: Or anybody with the apps. It's available right now.
Andrew: Yeah, which is so exciting. When I first found… I first found out about it when somebody just at-replied the Hypable Twitter with just a link, no text, just a link. And I saw it was The Telegraph and I was like, "Hmm, that's interesting."
Eric: Usually, that's spam. [laughs]
Andrew: [laughs] Right, right.
Eric: Usually that's like a "Grow your…" you know.
Andrew: Right, but it was going to The Telegraph so I clicked it, and the statement was there from the beginning because, as we'll get into in a minute, The Sunday Times had reached out to J.K. Rowling's people and she decided to issue a statement. So after I wrote up the article and did a couple of things, of course everybody was really excited. I booked it to my local Barnes and Noble, but I couldn't find it and I even went up to somebody at the desk and I said, "Help me find it." They were like, "Yeah, you know, we got four copies in stock. It says we have four copies here." So they helped me look and it just could not be found. And he just turned to me at one point and was just like, "Yeah, I guess we have four copies that are lost." I'm like, "Okay, great, bye."
Andrew: So, I was bummed…
Micah: Or four copies that sold before you got there.
Andrew: Yeah, that's what I was also thinking, but I don't think their computers would reflect that they're in. Anyway, luckily my friends, John and Bre - John who you may know from Leaky - he is closer to a Barnes and Noble down near Santa Monica, so they also booked it over to the bookstore and purchased all four available copies.
[Andrew and Eric laugh]
Selina: Like hoarding J.K. Rowling books. It's crazy.
Andrew: I know. Well, they're…
Micah: You know what I'm thinking, Andrew?
Micah: I'm thinking that clerk that you went to put those in reserve for himself and kept them in the back room.
Selina: I bet. And sold them for a hundred dollars.
Eric: I have a story about this. I have a story about this, guys. So my Barnes and Noble that I went to, the one in Skokie, there were four in inventory.
Andrew: See? See?
Eric: Which is weird. I'm sensing a recurring thing here.
Eric: Basically, by the time I got there, it was maybe forty five minutes after the news broke, and I asked the woman. I asked her, "Hey, so Cuckoo's Calling, new crime thriller." She's like, "Okay, it's right over here." She led me right to it and that was because she had just put it on hold for somebody who called in.
Eric: So she put one copy on hold, so she knew exactly where it was but didn't necessarily know anything further, right? So she led me right to it and she picked it up off the shelf and gave it to me and I was like, "Okay. You know that the word on the street is that this is the new J.K. Rowling book." And her eyes went really wide, and she's like, "Really?" And I'm like, "Yes." I didn't say, "Oh yeah, I've heard this thing." I just said, "The Internet says this is what happened."
Eric: So I was like, "So I'll take two."
[Andrew and Micah laugh]
Eric: Because I knew… because my girlfriend didn't have any luck down in the city Barnes and Noble, which is also a university bookstore so they weren't as well stocked. But I grabbed two, meaning there was one left on the shelf, and I started walking the other way after I said, "Okay, I'll take two." I grabbed them and I was walking to the cashier. And the woman said, "Well, maybe I'll take this last copy for myself."
Andrew: Yeah, I would have.
Selina: See? Don't you think that's so interesting though, and kind of nice, that even now, so many years after Harry Potter and after The Casual Vacancy - which was a lukewarm success at best - you hear new J.K. Rowling book, everybody books it to the bookstore. No pun intended.
Andrew: And like Eric…
Selina: And it's like you guys are hoarding the books. That's the thing. It's like you have to have this because it's J.K. Rowling's book, you know?
Andrew: And like Eric pointed out, the thrill yesterday was that it was already… it was immediately available.
Andrew: So it was like a little treasure hunt going… that's how it felt to me.
Andrew: I wanted so bad to just go up to it and actually see it sitting there on the shelf. I was bummed that I didn't get that experience like Eric and other people did.
Selina: But you know what? I don't know about you, Andrew, but whenever I heard this, I wasn't surprised at all that she would have released this under a pseudonym because we've sort of been speculating this for a while. But I was a little bit disappointed because this probably means she didn't write Queen of the Tearling. [laughs]
Andrew: [laughs] Right. We spoke about Queen of…
Selina: And I really liked that theory.
Andrew: Yeah. We spoke about that on one of the more recent episodes of MuggleCast and over on Hype. And you know what? I've done some further digging about that, looking up who owns the domain name, and it looks to be an actual person. So…
Eric: Oh, bummer.
Andrew: Yeah, I know.
Selina: But I think it's also just because I kind of feel like, for me, I was hoping… and I didn't think she would, but I was sort of hoping against hope that she would write another fantasy.
Micah: She may still.
Andrew: This is all adding up though now because it's been six years now since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and it's like, what the heck has she been doing?
Eric: I mean, she got a Twitter, it's got two and a half million followers. She doesn't use it…
Selina: She doesn't have tweets.
Eric: She doesn't use it. It's the weirdest thing. It's like she's there but she's not, these past six years. She's been there but she's not. And this is another fruit of that labor that we didn't know existed.
Micah and Selina: Yeah.
Micah: I remember specifically, though… I think I found out once there was enough evidence to support the fact that it was true. So it wasn't one of those things where I was waiting, waiting, waiting to see was it actually legitimate that she had put this book out. But I have not gone out and got the book yet. I'm still waiting. I might try tomorrow at work…
Andrew: Uh oh.
Eric: Uh oh.
Micah: …on lunch hour to go to the Barnes and Noble a couple of blocks away and see if it's available.
Andrew: You're probably too late.
Micah: I'm probably am at this point.
Selina: Get it on ebook like I did!
Eric: You're in a pretty dense…
Micah: I don't like ebooks.
Eric: Oh, ebooks.
Selina: Yeah, I don't either. [laughs]
Micah: I like the actual book itself.
Micah: And that might be weird, but so be it.
Andrew: You know what? I actually… I have switched to only ebooks but the fact that it's a J.K. Rowling book, I want to have a physical copy. It's just nice.
Selina: I just got so scarred by Casual Vacancy. I mean, she sort of…
Selina: It tainted it forever. I'm looking right now at my massive cover of The Casual Vacancy which cost me like three hundred… not three hundred, thirty pounds.
Selina: [laughs] It wasn't that expensive. It's golden and… but I mean… and I'm just thinking, "You know what? That was a waste of money." [laughs]
Eric: I'm staring at the other end of my room where my bookshelf is and there's The Casual Vacancy, sure enough. It's the one signed by J.K.R. Right next to it is the one that's not signed by J.K.R that I paid thirty dollars for.
Eric: And I haven't finished it. They're just both over there and they're bookends on my bookshelf, so… you know, it is a cautionary lesson here, where just because… like on name alone… and this is the weirdest thing about what happened yesterday… maybe that would be a good title for this episode: What happened yesterday.
Eric: But it's the weirdest thing because no matter how or where we were or what we were doing… like I was in the middle of an eleven-hour workday, okay? The last thing on my mind was J.K. Rowling and Harry Potter. But when I started seeing those tweets coming in, about a new J.K. Rowling book, and once it was like, oh my God, this is happening, and it set in, me and everybody else started tweeting, "On our way," "Got to do this," tweeting photos, book-in-hand photos.
Selina: See, yeah...
Eric: …People were like, "I'm in the middle of a monsoon. I'm getting the Harry Potter book."
Selina: Now, here's your tagline for the show. I mean, the fandom, everyone saw that J.K. Rowling had a new book out. They all went cuckoo! Ha ha ha.
Andrew: Ah, cuckoo for Cuckoo!
Micah: Or Coco Pops.
Eric: It's just the weirdest... I wanted to tweet, but I didn't want to get shat on by people. Are we suddenly forgetting The Casual Vacancy here, people?
Micah: That's my question, because...
Eric: Like name alone… because it's been months and I still have no interest to pick that book up. I read half of it. I read exactly half of it and stopped and never picked it up again. And are we just forgetting? Are we just like, "Okay, we're going to go get the new J.K. Rowling book..." it's such loyalty to Jo, but at the same time there's absolutely no guarantee whatsoever that we're going to like it. It's, again, a different genre than what we're used to.
Selina: It's just a question of the fact that we had Casual Vacancy, some people loved it but some people didn't. But at the end of the day I think the fandom, the Harry Potter fandom as a whole, are still J.K. Rowling fans. They're fans of the franchise that is J.K. Rowling. And the question is just… I mean, this is going to be the book that I think decides. If people generally love this book, yeah, they're going to pick up whatever she writes next.
Selina: But if this kind of turns up being another Casual Vacancy I don't think that people are going to rush out to stores the next time she releases something.
Eric: It's weird because initial plot summaries, everything that I've read so far about the book makes it seem like Cuckoo's Calling is going to be a really fun crime drama novel, and I wonder why she didn't choose that one for her next book and publish Casual Vacancy under a pseudonym.
Andrew: Yeah, she should have.
Eric: Not that the lesser book has to… I'm not trying to somehow shovel The Casual…
Selina: Not that it wasn't a good book, but it just wasn't…
Eric: It's obviously very personal for Jo, and it was a hell of an undertaking to do it, and it portrays a dark corner of humanity that isn't comfortable. Maybe it was important or good that that book be under her name. But it's just so weird because this… my hopes are way up for this book because it seems to be… again, it's a little political but it's mostly about a detective. And those novels are always so much fun to read. Always.
Andrew: The other thing I like about The Cuckoo's Calling and why I wanted a physical copy is because it's summertime.
Andrew: I mean, the last time we got a new book during the summer from J.K. Rowling was Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. And the Harry Potter book releases were always traditionally summer releases, so it kind of harkens back to those Harry Potter release days.
Micah and Selina: Yeah.
Eric: That reminds me of… Micah, you posted in a Skype chat earlier that today is the six years since Episode 99 in Enlightening in 2007 in Philadelphia - which was the episode before we all got the seventh book - is six years ago today, from when we're recording this.
Andrew: Not just that, but today is the… tomorrow is the two year anniversary of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 hitting theaters.
Eric: Yeah. This is the Harry Potter month.
Eric: This is… and his birthday is in sixteen days or whatever. So you're right, it feels right that it was revealed now. Although, I did want to talk about the fact that it's only been two months. So the secret came out still pretty quickly, I think.
Andrew: Well, yeah. I mean, I guess we can get into that now. So The New York Times spoke to The Sunday Times, who initially uncovered The Cuckoo's Calling connecting it to J.K. Rowling. What happened was one of The Sunday Times's writers had read The Cuckoo's Calling recently and tweeted that she liked the book. And shortly after that, an anonymous person replied to her on Twitter and told her that it was J.K. Rowling who was the real author.
Andrew: So then the editor replied to the Twitter user asking, "How do you know for sure?" and the anonymous person said, "I just know." Then that anonymous person deleted the tweets and deleted his or her Twitter account. So from there, that made The Sunday Times start to dig. They connected the dots between the publisher and the editor of The Casual Vacancy and The Cuckoo's Calling. They're both Little Brown, and it's also the same actual editor, the same person. And that set off a red flag because it was like, why is this person who edited The Casual Vacancy for J.K. Rowling also editing something as irrelevant as a new-coming author, a new author? That part didn't really add up.
Eric: Oh, right. Right.
Andrew: And then they sent the two books plus Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows into linguistic computers and they found, quote, "significant similarities between the three."
[Andrew and Selina laugh]
Eric: These linguistic computers sound really cool.
Eric: They're basically what our eighth grade science teachers threatened us with if we were to plagiarize our science fair experiment.
Eric: They're like, "We can tell your writing! There are databases for this."
Eric: I'm all over it.
Andrew: So then they had all this evidence and they decided to email Rowling's publicist this past Friday night. And their email was… it was a very simple statement. It was:
"I believe that Robert Galbraith is in fact J.K. Rowling, and will you please come back with a straightforward answer?"
Selina: I love that.
Micah: You have to say that in a British accent though, because that sound…
Andrew: [in a terrible British accent] "Will you please come back with a straightforward answer?"
Micah: There you go. It just sounds more authentic that way.
Andrew: And then Saturday morning J.K. Rowling's publicist replied, "Yes, it is her." And then they got that statement from Rowling, and then that was it.
Andrew: So, yeah.
Selina: It's so weird. Such a weird sequence of events. What kind of… who was the person that originally tweeted it? That's what I want to know.
Andrew: Well, okay…
Selina: Is it Ian Rankin being bitter?
Andrew: Well, here's the question: Was this anonymous person on Twitter actually somebody from Little Brown, and Little Brown decided that now they want to let everybody learn about the book? Because…
Eric: I can just imagine like a 4:00AM phone call to J.K. Rowling, where she picks it up, she's like, "Hello?" - wiping the sleep from her eyes - and they're like, "Phase 2, Ms. Rowling, is ready to begin."
Eric: She's like, "Okay, proceed." And then they send that tweet back to that Sunday Times person. You think it's a planned event?
Andrew: Well, I mean…
Selina: I don't know. Operation Cuckoo?
Andrew: They wanted to sell them eventually. They wanted to let everybody know because, I mean, Little Brown is a business. They want book sales.
Andrew: And everybody knows book sales have been struggling. So I think it had to come out at some point. As J.K. Rowling said in her statement, she was hoping it wouldn't be this soon.
Andrew: I don't know how soon she was planning.
Andrew: But interestingly in the New York Times report, they say that the second print run of the book - which is now underway - will carry a revised author biography which reads, "Robert Galbraith is a pseudonym for J.K. Rowling."
Micah: So it wasn't planned?
Eric: The people who got… well, if it wasn't planned, they're certainly running like heck to… look, it had to be planned to some extent because at the end of the day…
Selina: They probably had a backup plan.
Eric: …it is J.K. Rowling. Yeah, there has to be a button they push…
Eric: …when it hits the fan that allows them to print so many more copies, because essentially the book now is out of print.
Eric: Those of us who got the print run… the first print run that doesn't reveal it to be J.K. Rowling, our books are slightly more special actually.
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