The Guardian has broken the news that Pottermore, the top-secret J.K. Rowling project that’s been percolating on the internet for days, is a game folks can play online that will lead them to prizes, including wizard’s wands, in the real world (though a possibility remains that it’s a marketing campaign for another product). I have to admit, if this is the case, I’m sort of disappointed.
I don’t really want any more Harry Potter novels. The story is completed, and I want to see what J.K. Rowling’s going to do next with her fairly prodigious world-building talents. But if she can’t just let the universe go, I was hoping that Rowling would follow in George Lucas’s steps and announce Harry Potter Expanded Universe in the vein of the Star Wars novels and games. Obviously, works would have to be vetted, licensed, and to observe a strict central continuity (if Star Wars’ continuity index is the Holocron, I wonder what they would call one for the Potterverse?). This kind of arrangement would provide a release valve for the demand for more Potter-related content, which is considerable, while leaving Rowling free to do other things. She could give all of her licensing profits to Human Rights Watch or Amnesty International. And she could pretty much walk away.
Whatever J.K. Rowling’s going to do next is going to be hugely successful, no matter its quality. That’s a tremendously rare position for an author to be in. The Harry Potter books are not masterpieces of prose, and they can be morally simplistic (though certainly less so in the later novels), but Rowling did an impressive job of using fiction to advocate for her central ideals of equality, human and non-human rights and dignity, and opposition to torture. If she can fashion another international hit on those themes, she’d do a lot of good even as she makes a lot of money.