Transcript #548


MuggleCast 548 Transcript


Transcript for MuggleCast Episode #548, Will There Ever Be Another Harry Potter-Level Book Series?

Show Intro

[Show music plays]

Andrew Sims: Welcome to MuggleCast, your weekly ride into the wizarding world fandom. I’m Andrew.

Eric Scull: I’m Eric.

Micah Tannenbaum: I’m Micah.

Laura Tee: And I’m Laura.

Andrew: And on this week’s episode, we are going to try to answer the question: Can there ever be another Harry Potter? And what will it take for something to reach the next Harry Potter level? And why has Harry Potter been so hot for so long? This is going to be a wide-ranging discussion, inspired by a recent conversation that the four of us had on Patreon a couple of weeks ago. Before we get to that, though, a couple of housekeeping items. First of all, don’t forget to follow us on our brand new TikTok. We spoke about it last week, and also last week, we said follow us at @MuggleCastPod; that was our username. Well, today, the day that we’re recording, Eric got in possession of the actual MuggleCast TikTok. One of our listeners, Eric, right? She actually had it.

Eric: Yeah, Kimira. Actually, she did us a real solid, because when setting up MuggleNet’s TikTok, MuggleNet ran into the issue where some guy named Matt has the account, doesn’t use it, it’s not… they can’t get it back. So MuggleNet on TikTok is @MuggleNetDotCom, and has been ever since they’ve had it. Well, Kimira was thinking of us, and she’s like, “I’d better reserve @MuggleCast. I know they don’t use it; they don’t have any interest to do TikToks. That’s what they told me, anyway.”

[Andrew laughs]

Eric: So she held on to it, and then she just heard that we were looking for it and looking to use it, got in touch with me, and said, “I need to remember what the password is, but I’ll switch it over,” and I said, “Wait, wait, let me have access to it exclusively for a day so I can make these fun videos about a guy getting kicked off the MuggleCast channel,” and then I did that. But yes, by the time this episode airs, MuggleCast will be on TikTok at @MuggleCast.

Andrew: Yeah. And important note, if you already followed us at @MuggleCastPod, you won’t need to re-follow us because we’re just going to change the @MuggleCastPod user name over to @MuggleCast. But if you haven’t followed us on TikTok yet, you can follow us now at @MuggleCast.

Eric: It’s nice to have it back. It feels like a birthright, you know?

Andrew: In the future, guys, anytime we see a new social media network pop up, we’ve just got to grab @MuggleCast whether or not we’re going to use it.

Eric: Are we on Hinge?

[Andrew laughs]

Micah: I was going to say, do we need an OnlyFans?

[Andrew and Eric laugh]

Andrew: We’ll grab it just for the hell of it. Why not? [laughs]

Laura: It can’t hurt, right?

Andrew: Yeah, yeah.

Eric: Thanks again to Kim for looking out, and all the work she does for MuggleNet’s TikTok and social.

Andrew: Absolutely.

Laura: Yeah, thank you.

Andrew: I am going to sign up for a MuggleCast OnlyFans. [laughs] I’m not kidding.

Eric: You should do it. I think we would really have fun deciding what gets posted on there.

Andrew: This sounds like a good dirty bonus MuggleCast installment for our Patreon.

Laura: What we would put on. [laughs]

Andrew: Brainstorming for the MuggleCast OnlyFans.

[Everyone laughs]

Andrew: Our wands. Okay, let’s move on.

[Laura laughs]

Eric: The new MuggleCast socks, but just the socks on our feet.

[Andrew laughs]

Eric: Yeah, anyway.

Andrew: So Micah and Eric, you two appeared on another Harry Potter podcast actually, recently, right?

Micah: Yes, we did. As you can… well, hopefully some people can see from my background, it was the Fantastic Beasts podcast SpeakBeasty. It was a lot of fun. And Andrew, as I was telling you earlier, I actually learned a lot more about the trailer and what was happening than I think even from our discussion episode, so it helps to have those Fantastic Beasts experts, for sure. And it was a great conversation.

Eric: Yeah, it was a lot of fun. I’d recommend everybody check out that episode of SpeakBeasty. I think it’s 144. And it’s coming out… at the time you hear this episode, it’ll be out next Sunday.

Micah: It was really cool because we looked at it from the perspective of who paired up with who in the trailer, and there were a number of pairings, and we went through and talked about each of them. Also some conversation about some new characters that popped up in the trailer and the gathering of the International Confederation of Wizards, which was not something that, like I said, I took away from that trailer the first time around. And there’s those little things. What were those on the ground that I missed?

Eric: Yes! The Diricawls. Those are the little birds that teleport in and out of existence that we saw in the first Fantastic Beasts film, and they’re back, baby. I didn’t see them in the trailer the first time either, but I’m so excited because I am the admin of the Facebook group and I have been for years: the Number One Diricawl Fan Club.

Micah: I didn’t know this. Did you guys know this?

Eric: It’s the Number One Diricawl Fan Club! And I’m so excited to see them in the trailer.

Micah: You would not even notice them. They are literally on the street when – is it Theseus and Eulalie Hicks? – are in Bhutan…

Eric: In the middle of battle.

Andrew: Interesting.

Micah: There’s these little birds on the street. So I came up with this theory – we’ll see if it holds true – that I think when all of these different pairings go out on their mission through that Tibetan wheel that we see that’s used as a Portkey, I think they’re each given a set of beasts to help them with their journey.

Andrew: Interesting, okay. I like that.

Laura: Nice theorizing.

Micah: It’ll probably be totally wrong, but…

[Everyone laughs]

Andrew: All right, well, everybody will have to check out that episode of SpeakBeasty.

Main Discussion: Will there ever be another Harry Potter?

Andrew: And now it’s time to jump into our main discussion today: Can there ever be another Harry Potter? So ever since Harry Potter exploded in popularity, there’s been a lot of talk about whether or not there could be another book series that is as popular as Harry Potter and that would make kids or young adults enjoy reading again, like Harry Potter was credited as doing, and something that would create a dedicated fandom like Harry Potter did. And do you three remember we would always see these headlines about “Is X, Y, or Z the next Harry Potter?”

Laura: Hell yeah.

Andrew: And even publishers would be like, “Harry Potter meets Twilight in this thrilling adventure.” There was all these comparisons. It got exhausting, didn’t it?

Eric: Definitely.

Andrew: In part because nothing lived up to Harry Potter. So I thought to start this discussion, let’s establish why Harry Potter became so huge and has had a lasting legacy. So first of all, a powerful and detailed story, right, Eric?

Eric: Yeah, it’s got the goods, which definitely helps when… I think everything you’d want in a story, from a level of detail that fits your comfort zone, the fact that you can read just to read and figure out what happens, enjoy the dialogue, or read to find what the deep secrets are going to be. No matter what your entry level range is, there’s something for everybody in Harry Potter, and I think that was incredibly important in getting just such a wide range of ages, too, reading these books.

Laura: Yeah, I also think from the very jump of the story, there’s such a strong hook to pull you in. I mean, that opening sentence of “Mr. and Mrs. Dursley of Number Four Privet Drive considered themselves to be perfectly normal, thank you very much.” I remember reading that as a child for the first time and being automatically hooked, because I was like, “These people sound like jerks.”

[Andrew laughs]

Laura: “I want to know what it is about themselves that they think makes them such perfect human specimens.” And then from there, you get into the strong characterization that exists in these books. I think particularly in the first three books, it’s very clear that those stories were mapped out. There’s a reference to Sirius Black in Chapter 1 of the first book; it’s just so clear that there were so many details and so many bread crumbs left to pull those stories together. And that goes into a strong sense of place, too; I mean, there’s a reason why everyone wants to go to Hogwarts. There’s a reason why we all dreamed of getting our Hogwarts acceptance letter, because we can see the place. I mean, some of the detail that is provided of all of these locations that Harry is going to in London, when he first goes to Diagon Alley, it’s this majestic, magical world that is somehow still grounded in a reality that we can recognize, and that makes it relatable, but also something that you want to aspire to. So for me, those were the factors that pulled me into the books early on, and they were the factors that kept me coming back, honestly.

Micah: It’s also – and I think we’re going to talk a little bit about this when we’re talking about it with relation to Star Wars – but it’s multigenerational, and I think the fact that you were able to really transcend so many different people from so many different backgrounds. No matter your age, it seemed like there was no limit to who could enjoy the Harry Potter series. And I think very rarely… we think of it from the standpoint of having grown up with the books, but there are plenty of grownups who read the books as well, and I don’t think that you often see that with a book series that have that mass popularity. The fact that pretty much anybody that you go and speak to, there’s a pretty good chance that they’ve read the Harry Potter series. Maybe they don’t go all the way through, but they’ve read at least a few of the books.

Andrew: Yeah, because it’s so accessible for everybody, I think people our age or older can really dive into the various mysteries that we see across the series and just think about the larger themes and really take deep dives into the characters, but if you’re a younger reader, you can just look at the overarching plot and not really get too deeply involved. You’re more entertained by the magic, and like Laura was saying, this vivid school and the creatures, and then of course, the dialogue is mostly easy for readers of all ages to understand. So yeah, the books are just widely accessible in different ways. No matter what age you are, you’re getting something different out of it.

Eric and Laura: Yeah.

Eric: I mean, I remember going back through Order of the Phoenix and Half-Blood Prince recently when we finished all of the Chapter by Chapters, and now that we’re adults, we’re looking at it from a completely different perspective and going, “Oh my, Harry is a victim of child abuse.”

Andrew: Yeah, exactly.

Eric: As a kid, we’re like, “Oh, those darned aunt and uncle,” but as an adult, you get so much more out of it. Adults were reading these books then and probably thought the same thing, like, “This is not a way to treat a child.”

Laura: Right.

Eric: And so it’s really just in terms of getting everything out of it, it’s one series that you can keep coming back to. It’s got staying power, and it’s got revisit power, and those are also unique qualities, I think, when we’re talking about what would be the next.

Laura: Right. It’s also a coming of age story, right? Everybody loves a good coming of age story because we can all relate to it, whether you’re going through that while you’re reading the books, or whether you’re an adult and you remember what it was like to be in those adolescent years.

Eric: And the gradual loss of innocence as Harry loses his. And to that point, too, we touched on the mystery, but it really helped that each book had its own mini mystery or series of mysteries, and then there were the overarching mysteries. Just layered writing to keep coming back to.

Andrew: Right.

Eric: But it really matters. And as kids, yeah, we’re just interested in seeing who put Harry’s name in the cup, or how did Sirius Black really escape Azkaban? These are interesting questions. But the overall mystery of how Harry was even able to survive is that series long that keeps you wanting to read more and more to get that mystery out of it as well.

Andrew: Yeah. And then the next thing I would credit is the foreshadowing and the ring theory that we bring up so much and Easter eggs. And I think you’ll see this in some series, but there’s so much of it going on across the Harry Potter series, and that’s one reason why I think the fandom was able to explode like it did. Just looking at this podcast as an example, we’re obviously able to catch things while analyzing, and we find them and then we report on them here on the podcast. There’s just so much for you to keep an eye out for that is just a fascinating read in that way, and then when you do catch these things, you want to tell other people about it because you’re so impressed.

Eric: Yeah, like rereading the first Harry Potter book and seeing Sirius Black’s name after you’ve already read the third book and go, “Whoa!” That still throws me when I see that happen.

Laura: I was actually going to say about that, right around the time that the Prisoner of Azkaban movie was coming out, my dad picked up the first book to read it. And after he read the first chapter – he’d seen the trailers for Prisoner of Azkaban – and he came to me and was like, “Wait a second. What is the connection to Sirius Black?” And he was excited by it because he picked up on that hook, and I was like, “You’re just going to have to read to find out, Dad.”

[Andrew laughs]

Eric: Oh my gosh.

Micah: Nice. See, and what you’re calling attention to is something that Danielle said in the Discord, is that it also allowed for parents who are reading the books to connect with their children.

Laura: 100%.

Micah: And that’s not, again, something that you always see in other series. Now, I’ll go extreme and say A Song of Ice and Fire is maybe dad and son…

[Eric laughs]

Micah: Some type of bond over that. But dad and daughter… I mean, there’s a lot of weird things going on in that series.

Eric: I can’t actually imagine parents reading their kids that. Maybe they did, but I can’t imagine it.

Andrew: But actually, along that line, Pixar movies. They’re appealing to every generation because there are jokes and themes for adults, but all that stuff is also entertaining for the kids. I mean, I think about early Pixar movies. There’s stuff when we were watching these when we were kids; the jokes for adults went right over your head. A lot of cartoons will do this too; I think Spongebob might. That’s one reason Pixar has been so successful; it’s because adults want to see these Pixar movies, too, because they do have really deep messages going on underneath the surface.

Eric: It is kind of about those little rewards, like Easter eggs, little pieces of candy that you find when you’re reading. If you’re paying enough attention, you get rewarded, and that’s a huge… I know that when we’re reading something for entertainment, we like to feel smart. We like to be rewarded for paying attention, because it’s taxing, so it’s nice.

Andrew: Just like Pixar movies. Easter eggs everywhere. The Pizza Planet truck in every Pixar movie.

Micah: Everybody has a story, though, too. That’s the thing around this series is that no one person’s story is the same in terms of how they picked up the first book or who they connected with as a result of it. And I’m just seeing all the comments flying in the Discord about how our listeners got into Harry Potter, and I just think that that is one thing in and of itself that makes this such a unique series.

Eric: It’s interesting because whenever I’m watching old videos on the Harry Potter fandom and how it came to be, like news article reporting editorialists, it really talks about reading going out of fashion in the late ’90s. People really thought video games were going to kill books, and I think they nearly did, and movies too. But then something like Harry Potter comes along, and even though they were adapting them to movies, it was taking longer. And there were these five or six books at least that you could just pour through and get through without having a movie companion for it, and I think that really brought reading back. For me, I was not a reader until Harry Potter, and I still mostly have just read Harry Potter.

[Andrew laughs]

Eric: But I’ve read other things. But really, if I’m being honest here… I’ve just got to be honest.

Andrew: I’m with you. I’m the same. I try to read, but… yeah.

Eric: But I enjoy the hell out of reading when I’m reading something that I enjoy, which… it’s amazing.

Andrew: Right, yeah. You don’t stop thinking about it. You want to return as soon as you can.

Eric: Right. I looked up the stats, and over 825 million books, print books, sold last year. So books are still going. That’s great. I was worried.

[Andrew laughs]

Eric: But I think that if we’re talking about something like Harry Potter and what’s going to be the next one, we have to look at print as an art form and whether or not… and do audiobooks count? But what’s really going to get people to go to a store to buy something, and then sit with it and just look at it for hours.

Micah: Andrew, I know you’re going to agree with me on this one: There is something very distinct about the smell of the Harry Potter books.

Andrew and Laura: Yes.

Laura: So true.

Andrew: Well, really any book. Yeah, just holding a physical book, they all have different smells. But yeah, the Harry Potter books have a distinct smell. Probably just reminds us of our younger selves.

Laura: Yeah, I also have to say – and this is coming from a very American perspective, I understand – but Mary GrandPré’s cover art. That was also a big part of what drew me into these books. I remember – so I’m telling on myself right now – I got the first three books for my 11th birthday, and I knew that I was getting them before my birthday because as a child, I was a terrible snooper, so around the holidays and stuff, I would always snoop to see what I was getting for presents and things like that. And I saw the three books in a bag in my parents’ closet, and when I pulled them out to look at them, I was instantly excited just based on the cover art.

Andrew: Yeah, it’s gorgeous art.

Micah: I was just going to…

Andrew: So out of all… go ahead.

Micah: Oh, sorry. No, I was just going to use this as an opportunity – Laura mentioned Mary GrandPré – to plug our Episode 172 when we spoke with Mary GrandPré. Now, that was all the way back in 2009, so just a couple of years ago. [laughs] But it was a really, really great interview. We talked to her about what her favorite book was in the series, she broke down that curtain comparison from Sorcerer’s Stone to Deathly Hallows, how much communication she had with the author, and even some of the international illustrators. So it’s a really good episode; folks should go and check it out.

Andrew: Cool. So from all of this came many, many readers, and it was a feverish – it is a feverish – fanbase. And I’m going to be bringing this up a lot during the discussion today because I think this is what sets Harry Potter apart from other very popular book and film franchises. Yes, there have been some very successful book series. Some of them you might be able to compare to Harry Potter, but only Harry Potter and only Star Wars and some others have had a feverish fanbase, and then you combine that with the fact that Harry Potter is sticking around. It isn’t going anywhere. It’s here for the rest of our lives, I’m willing to bet. And this feverish fanbase would gleefully analyze every page because of the things that we were discussing, and of course, they went online to share theories. And that leads me to a point, Micah, you added.

Micah: So I think that the Internet played a huge role in the rise of the success of the Harry Potter series, particularly because you had the instant ability… “instant” may not be the… dial-up came first.

Eric: I mean, that took about 45 seconds.

[Andrew imitates a dial-up connection noise]

Micah: Yes, and nobody calling your house to knock you off. But yeah, the instant ability for fans to connect, theorize in terms of what was going to happen in the next book, and discuss the Potter series overall… and we can’t not mention fan sites. It would be impossible to have this conversation without mentioning MuggleNet, Leaky, Veritaserum, all of the big ones. And it gave people a home. I mean, those sites were so comprehensive; the things that people came up with were just unbelievable. And that’s how I got into, really, the analysis side of the Potter series, was the editorial section on MuggleNet. I know we’ve talked about that on some of the other episodes that we’ve done, but yeah, it was just perfect timing because the Internet was taking off in a way that really just leant itself to allow this type of conversation to happen.

Andrew: Yeah, definitely.

Laura: Agreed.

Andrew: Hold on; I’m going back to 1996. I’m going to go get online.

[Dial-up Internet sound plays]

Laura: Oh my God.

Micah: You should have put a trigger warning before this, Andrew.

[Andrew laughs]

Laura: I know. I feel attacked.

Eric: Oh, man.

Andrew: Mom, don’t make a call! I’m getting online! I’ve got to go check out the latest theories about Order of the Phoenix!

Eric: We need a segment that utilizes the dial-up modem sound.

Andrew: [laughs] Hold on, still going. I’m still connecting to the web.

Eric: I miss that. I miss that so much. Welcome! You’ve got mail!

Andrew and Laura: Yeah.

Andrew: I wish that had that at the end of it. This was an AOL sign-on. Oh, well.

Laura: Yeah, and really to drive it home, when we think about the fan sites and when we think about the fan community, I think a lot of us think about the heyday of fan sites for Harry Potter, particularly between 2005 to 2010, but there was an era before that. I remember we had just moved to Georgia in the summer. I had no friends because I had finished out school in Texas; I wasn’t going to meet anyone my age until I went back to school in the fall. And that was the summer Goblet of Fire came out, and I was so hungry for more Harry Potter. I read Goblet of Fire in three days. My mom was like, “Yeah, that book is 700 pages long; it’ll keep her busy this summer.” And it was like, “Nope.” Completely just inhaled that book, basically. And I went online and started looking for people to talk about Harry Potter with and I found chatrooms through AIM. Remember, you could search for various different interests for AIM chatrooms? And you would be in a chat with perhaps hundreds of strangers, but they were all talking about Harry Potter, mostly. And there were a lot of smaller fan sites that were getting started at that time. I know, Andrew, you had one around that time, as well.


Laura: Yep. And it was, for me, the beginning of that feverish desire to keep consuming Harry Potter content because I wanted more, and we had no idea when the next book was coming out.

Andrew: Yeah. And I was also just thinking, all the fan sites and the podcasts even still today are so genuine.

Laura: Yes.

Andrew: It’s just true fans wanting to talk with fellow fans. These days, let’s say a new Fantastic Beasts movie comes out or Star Wars or whatever else. BuzzFeed’ll cover it, too, and Entertainment Weekly, but they’re being paid to write this content and they might not be true fans. With the fan sites, with the podcasts, we’re doing it because we’re true fans who just want to talk about it with fellow fans and meet people too. It’s all so genuine; it’s wonderful.

Eric: Yeah, that’s a good point.

Andrew: I’m now loading up my website on the Wayback Machine.

[Laura laughs]

Andrew: I really need to print this out and frame it.

Laura and Micah: You should!

Andrew: I’m really proud of it. [laughs]

Micah: You should sign it.

Andrew: [laughs] Sign it?! For myself?

Micah: Yeah, why not?

Laura: Put that on the OnlyFans.

[Andrew laughs]

Micah: Yeah, just you holding the… never mind.

[Laura laughs]

Micah: One thing I thought was worth mentioning, too, with these fan sites is that you think about the number of – not even the fan sites, but the series – the number of authors, artists, coders, programmers, podcasters… you could probably sit here and list so many different creators that came out of their experience with the Harry Potter series.

Andrew: Exactly.

Eric: Because it was so ubiquitous and it was everywhere at all times, you really found ways in which to channel your creative energy. If you were a creator, you could create things for the fandom of Harry Potter. If you were a singer/songwriter, you could do wizard rock. If you were an artist, you could do fan art. You found a community that had to do with Harry Potter, but that also was in your lane, and that’s why we got so much awesome creative stuff, is creative people were reading it and they were being inspired by it, which again, goes back to the story being so inviting and multifaceted.

Andrew: And isn’t it wonderful how so many of these talented people, that was their start in the creative world, and so many of them have achieved their own level of greatness? That is mind-blowing and makes me so happy. Sometimes I see some of our listeners, for example; maybe it’s not a creative career, but now they’re in something – it’s not always a creative career, I’m trying to say – now they’re in some huge business or they made a name for themselves, and I think a lot of those people would credit Harry Potter for starting them off.

Micah: Darren Criss.

Andrew: Darren Criss!

Laura: Right, that’s who I was thinking of. I think also, a big part of this – and we’ll probably have to find the study and link to it in our show notes – but remember the study that came out several years ago showing that there was a high correlation between people who grew up reading Harry Potter and people who are highly empathetic? And empathy, it’s one of those things that gets called a soft skill, but you can’t teach empathy. It’s kind of like a secret sauce, right? And not everyone has it, but it seems to be highly prevalent amongst people who read Harry Potter, and I think that it provides people a lot of success in ways that maybe empathy does not get credited for, right? It’s not a hard skill, like you’re a chemist or like you learn to code, but the point is, you can learn to do those things. Empathy is a different beast.

Micah: Especially if you look at the fan community, the diversity of it.

Andrew: Speaking of launching creative careers, Cassandra Clare, who wrote The Mortal Instruments, she got her start by writing Harry Potter fanfiction. Veronica Roth, the author of Divergent, was a MuggleCast listener!

Laura: Wow.

Andrew: A MuggleCast listener! Huge Harry Potter fan, clearly, or maybe just a fan of us. [laughs] No, clearly a very big Harry Potter fan.

Micah: You interviewed Stephenie Meyer; you got her her start here on MuggleCast.

[Andrew laughs]

Micah: Evanna would be another example as well.

Andrew: Oh, yeah. So in a moment, we’re going to look at Twilight, The Hunger Games, Divergent, and some others, because with all due respect to Veronica Roth and Stephenie Meyer and Suzanne Collins, those series had feverish fandoms, but then they burned out pretty quick once the movies were released. Or in the case of Divergent, they didn’t even get to finish the film series because things went downhill really quick, but we’ll get to that in a moment. Okay, so one reason I wanted to have this discussion is because after Harry Potter and towards the end of Harry Potter, there were a couple of “Next Harry Potters.” The first one was Twilight, and Laura and I actually got pretty involved in the Twilight fandom. We started a fan site called Twilight Source. We started a Twilight podcast called Imprint. And I do have to say, it was so refreshing to do a fan site and podcast that wasn’t about Harry Potter. [laughs]

Laura: It really was.

Andrew: It was like, “Oh, something new, thank goodness.” But Laura, Twilight, for anybody who doesn’t know, it’s a vampire romance series. And actually, it’s had a resurgence recently, maybe because of TikTok.

Micah: Netflix, right? Wasn’t it on Netflix?

Andrew and Laura: Yeah.

Andrew: And it did very well on Netflix; I think it recently left and went to Peacock. But Laura, Twilight burned out pretty quick.

Laura: Yeah, it did, and I would attribute that to the stories not being as deep as Harry Potter. I think there was a lot of crossover at the time between Harry Potter fans and Twilight fans. I think Harry Potter fans were hungry for more Harry Potters; they were hoping for another franchise that would scratch that same itch, and Twilight was just a different franchise. That’s not to say that there was anything bad or wrong about it, but whereas Harry Potter was this multi-layered story that had romantic themes in it, Twilight was a romance first and foremost. So if you’re looking for the level of literary analysis that you could get out of Harry Potter, you’re not going to get that with Twilight, and that’s okay. When I think of Twilight, Twilight is like a beach book.

Andrew: [laughs] Yeah.

Laura: And I love beach books; there’s nothing wrong with them. I hate it when people use that term sort of dismissively. Everybody needs a good beach book. That’s what I think of Janet Evanovich’s books, for example. They’re easy.

Andrew: Yes.

Laura: They’re easy, and they’re fun. So is Twilight. There’s nothing wrong with that. You’re just not going to get as nitty gritty with it as you were with Harry Potter; it’s a different kind of phenomenon.

Andrew: Yeah. There was that speculation as we headed towards the final book, and that final book was a wild ride. That was part of the problem, I think, with Twilight. [laughs] But just looking at the list of reasons why Harry Potter was a success, the detailed story wasn’t really there. Mysteries galore, eh. Foreshadowing and stuff, maybe a little bit. It was all lesser. And like, Laura, you were saying, yes, it was an easier and fun read, and I found that refreshing as well. Just… you were able to burn through those books pretty quick.

Laura: Yep.

Andrew: On the other hand, it did have that feverish fan base, and that may largely have been because of the movies. Go ahead, Micah.

Micah: Yeah, well, that was going to be my question, is when we’re talking about why didn’t it have the success, are we talking about from a book standpoint? From a movie standpoint? Both?

Andrew: Both. Both. Though, like I said, there has been a bit of a resurgence. I think with the books, too, but you don’t see that organized online fandom effort like you did back when Harry Potter was in its heyday.

Micah: Right. Yeah, I think… and you could probably apply this to most of the series that we’re going to talk about, and it’s that I think the Harry Potter series probably set expectation levels too high. We talk about Harry Potter as a once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon, and I think that’s what it’s going to be. It’s very rare you get something like that that comes along, and I think to hold Twilight or The Hunger Games or the Divergent series to that, it’s not fair. It wasn’t going to take off in the same way.

Laura: I agree. But I actually remember… to that point, I remember being in a hotel with y’all; we were at some convention, and Andrew, I don’t remember who it was, but somebody had gotten an advanced copy of, I think, the second Hunger Games book. I don’t remember what it was called.

Andrew and Eric: Catching Fire.

Laura: Yeah, Catching Fire. And they brought it to you, and I remember them gushing about it to you in the hallway and being like, “This is the next Harry Potter.” And we were kind of like, “Is it?” Not in a mean way, but it’s just a different kind of story.

Eric: For me, just getting back to Twilight real quick, I appreciated it being different. I didn’t necessarily want another Harry Potter because Harry Potter was my everything. [laughs] So I was looking for something else. I did want it to be different, and at least there, it’s different enough, right? Twilight is dealing with vampires and werewolves, and those are two things that Harry Potter doesn’t really necessarily spend a lot of time on, vampires in particular, I’m thinking, too. It had a female protagonist, which was interesting to me and unique. And it was a romance, like Laura said, so I think it had a lot going for it that inspired me and made me happy that it wasn’t Harry Potter. So it’s interesting to contrast it and be like, “Well, it couldn’t measure up” or “couldn’t make the mark, and that’s why it’s not wildly successful to this day the way Harry Potter is.” But at the same time, I think what these books served to do was – and to that point, the publishers, too, saying, “This is the next Harry Potter” – it got us to read them. It kind of worked.

Andrew: And you know what, this might be a more controversial opinion about Twilight, but I felt from the onset of Twilight‘s popularity that the people who were obsessed with Twilight were jealous that they had missed the boat on Harry Potter. I think they may have gotten into Harry Potter late or completely missed it, and then they were like, “Well, here’s Twilight. This looks like a hot new fandom. Let me jump into this and get that experience that Harry Potter fans had.” Maybe? Maybe not?

Laura: Maybe for some people.

Eric: I know I felt jealous I never got into the Eragon fandom, and so I angrily joined the Harry Potter fandom as a direct result of that.

[Andrew laughs]

Micah: Which flopped after – what was it? – one movie.

Eric: Yeah, but Jeremy Irons was really good.

Micah: Eragon was a great series, though, but I feel like the author there… was it Christopher…?

Andrew: Christopher Paolini.

Micah: Yeah, he tried to extend it out a little bit. He ended up, I think, doing one more book than what was originally intended, which is fine if you have the material. I remember reading the series. But the other series that came to mind – and I feel like in some ways I’m shamelessly plugging old MuggleCast episodes – but Andrew, I think you did this interview with Freddie Highmore for the Spiderwick Chronicles.

Andrew: Ooh.

Laura: I remember.

Micah: The now famous Freddie Highmore. Became a pretty good actor.

Andrew: Yeah, the funny thing about The Spiderwick Chronicles was the movie studio behind that asked MuggleNet to create a Spiderwick Chronicles fan site, and they were hoping to create a Harry Potter-level fandom out of The Spiderwick Chronicles with the help of MuggleNet.

Micah: Wow.

Andrew: And I guess they paid us.

Eric: That’s so cool.

Andrew: Yeah, but that’s like when somebody hires somebody who claims to be an expert at making things go viral. You can’t just put in the right hashtags to make something go viral. It has to happen organically.

Eric: Don’t I know that.

Andrew: Yeah, right? Same thing with The Spiderwick Chronicles. Just because MuggleNet is creating a fan site for it doesn’t mean it’s going to become the next Harry Potter.

Eric: No, but I think everyone’s touching on the ingredients, right? I think the owners of the Spiderwick IP knew at that time that for that moment in time, fan sites were a big deal for fan growth and conversation. And so if a series didn’t have a natural hub, to create one was a good inkling. It was a good kind of path to go down, but there’re so many ingredients to what made Harry Potter a success that it is hard to quantify or figure out what is going to then make your thing a success.

Andrew: Right, right.

Micah: Well, if listeners want to listen to Andrew talking to about a 10-year-old Freddie Highmore, Episodes 129 and 131.

Andrew: Oh my gosh.

Eric: I love that.

Andrew: He was 10?

Micah: I don’t know. He was pretty young, right?

Laura: I actually remember going to see The Spiderwick Chronicles with you, Andrew.

Andrew: Oh, didn’t we get invited to a screening, maybe? Again the studio? No?

Laura: No, we were visiting friends, and we went to just a regular movie theater.

Andrew: Oh, okay.

Eric: So where was y’all’s Spiderwick podcast then?

Andrew: [laughs] They didn’t pay us enough to do that.

Laura: No.

[Andrew laughs]

Andrew: I feel like they invited us to the premiere or something because they wanted MuggleNet to give it attention; they wanted to get the Harry Potter audience.

Laura: Yeah, we went to some random theater in southern Maryland, which I doubt was the premiere.

[Andrew and Laura laugh]

Andrew: No? No? Okay, so The Hunger Games; we’ve touched on it a little bit. The reason I don’t think this one lasted was because it’s just depressing. It really is sad. Like yeah, there’s a good love story there. I got really into The Hunger Games; I got swept up in it. The movies were awesome. Marketing-wise, they did an incredible job, Lionsgate and Summit did. But man, after you read those books once and watch the movies once, it’s like, “Do I really want to go through this again?”

Eric: I agree. I think Hunger Games is what came the closest for me to rivaling some thoughts and feelings about Harry Potter, because I really like that world; I think something about the way it’s written is real solid. But yeah, I just wasn’t ready for the proto-fascist government demanding lives be sacrificed to the citizenry. It came out, I think, five or six years too soon to really be completely reminiscent of modern times, and for that, I think maybe that’s why it didn’t take off. Looking at it now, I’m like, “Holy crap, how was that allowed to be published?” But there are some very dark, adult themes, but it’s relevant because child soldiers, that’s been a thing for decades, and the gradual awareness of the horrors of the world. This book just doesn’t hold any punches the way Harry Potter, I think, does. Harry Potter will have a fascist dictator trying to take over Hogwarts, but everybody hates her. The teachers even will trick her and pull pranks, but it doesn’t fully explore things the way that the Hunger Games series is forced to by literally having to kill 20… what is it, 23 of its 24 tributes every year.

Andrew: Right.

Laura: Do you think that part of it…? I mean, being a dystopian is not helpful, but do you think part of it is that there was really not much room for the universe of The Hunger Games to continue expanding? I mean, it’s a dystopian version of the United States; it’s broken down into districts. They have this Battle Royale with children every year, so you see the main… the core of the books is this literal shrinking circle, but then you also see the world that this takes place in is very limited. So whereas with Harry Potter there are these boundless possibilities for what you might see from book to book and different scenery you might learn from… we get to go to St. Mungo’s one time; we get to see what the wizarding world looks like outside of Hogwarts, and that allows for more creative analysis to happen. It allows for more imagination, whereas I feel like with The Hunger Games, it’s very limited, the scope.

Andrew: Yeah, once they’re all dead, you can’t speculate about what happened to them after the events of the book.

[Andrew and Eric laugh]

Laura: Right.

Eric: That’s very important. And I think of it in terms of people said open canon or closed canon, just like Rowling had at least with Harry Potter. We go to St. Mungo’s, but it’s only for a little bit of time; we never go back. There’s still a lot of free thinking and speculation that can be going on there about that. Or the Department of Mysteries; we see these things once, but it’s not like the books and with the world being destroyed, so those things are still out there, in a way. Whereas The Hunger Games and the government toppled, we have hope, but we have no firm ideas about any systems that are going to be put in place after.

Micah: I just think it’s not a welcoming world, kind of going off what Laura was saying. You want to go to the wizarding world. You don’t want to go into the Hunger Games world.

Laura: Yeah. [laughs]

Micah: Panem, right? That’s what it’s called?

Andrew: Yeah, Panem. Well, there’s been talk of Hunger Games theme parks, and there have been some attractions overseas.

[Eric laughs]

Andrew: But people – right – on the Internet are just like, “Who the hell wants to go to Panem? Who wants to go to District 12?” Like, okay, I want some bread from Peeta, but that’s it.

Micah: Unfortunately, it does exist in some countries. I don’t know that people actually want to go there, though.

Andrew: Yeah. Well, exactly.

Eric: If I could buy bread from Josh Hutcherson, I would probably pay about $25 for a loaf of bread.

Andrew: [laughs] I’ll also add that there was a spinoff Hunger Games book called The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, but it followed…

Eric: Snow.

Andrew: Yeah, when he was younger, around the 10th annual Hunger Games. And this book came out in 2020; maybe not the best year for the book to be published in terms of getting attention. [laughs] It was published in May 2020, two months after the pandemic started. But I’m looking at this on Amazon. It’s got 43,000 reviews, four and a half star average, so clearly, people liked it. But nobody was talking about this book when it came out. Imagine a Harry Potter prequel coming out; people would be talking about it.

Eric: Here’s the problem: Even if they were talking about this book, I don’t know that I would have seen it. The Internet is a much bigger place than it was back in 2003. I’m not on Reddit, either, and never have been. I feel like the discourse for these types of books is now going to be so many other different places, whereas in 2002, 2003, through 2007, everyone’s attention was on the fan sites or everyone’s attention was on chatrooms or the very few social media networks that we had back then. But now the Internet is just broken up into so many pieces. There’s a Tumblr thing of Harry. it’s just like, every different thing has its own hub.

Micah: I agree with you.

Eric: There’s just nowhere you’d go for people to talk about this.

Micah: It’s almost fragmented; I think that’s what you’re getting at, right? It’s like if something becomes a phenomenon in this day and age, where are you going, right? Websites are kind of a thing of the past. Then you have social media, but what platform do you go to?

Eric: So many.

Andrew: Right. It’s a good point.

Micah: And how are fans going to communicate in one place? I think that was another benefit. We were talking about the rise of the Internet earlier, but social media wasn’t really a thing, and if it was, it wasn’t that big back then.

Andrew: Yeah. So finally, Divergent. We’ve mentioned it a couple times. Also dystopian. It did pretty well, though. The problem is the fourth book; there’s a major twist. And I don’t know if I should spoil it or not, even though it’s been out for quite a few years, but it is a major, major twist, and a lot of readers were very upset with it. And when this kind of twist happens, you don’t really want to think about the series anymore, because somebody really important is gone. And again, you don’t want to spend too much time thinking about this dystopian world, especially if you might feel like you’re currently living in a dystopian world!

Laura: Right.

[Andrew laughs]

Eric: It’s not escapism. That’s a word I don’t think… I’m surprised to find we didn’t utter that yet on this show, unless somebody did; I apologize. But escapism, that’s huge.

Micah: It’s further down.

Andrew: Oh, okay. [laughs]

Eric: There you go. Sorry to usurp.

Micah: No, no, no, that’s totally fine. I can now reference it.

Laura: I honestly feel like the closest thing we have to the Harry Potter phenomenon currently is the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s not the same kind of hype and it’s not the same kind of fanbase, but it’s wide-reaching, it’s global, there is a feverish fanbase, and it’s something that does touch a lot of people, even if you are more of a casual fan. I’m definitely more of a casual fan myself, but you’d better bet I’ve seen all those movies, I’m watching all the shows on Disney+, and it’s gotten me into reading some of the comics because I’m interested to know more about the source material that they’re drawing from.

Andrew: And there’s a lot to speculate over.

Laura: Yeah, there’s a ton to speculate over. Exactly. And also, there’s a multiverse, right? So there’s tons of different possibilities outside of the standard Marvel 616 universe, which is what you’ll hear a lot of folks talk about. But I think that’s the closest thing we’ve got right now. Is there anything that you can think of that goes there?

Andrew: Well, I would say Star Wars, and maybe we could move there now, but yeah, other than that, no, not really. I would love another book series, and we’re going to get into this, too, in a moment, but I would love another Harry Potter-level book series.

Laura: Same.

Andrew: Just something entirely new. It’d be very refreshing.

Eric: Specifically books? Something that hasn’t been adapted to screen?

Andrew: At least starting as books, yeah. Same kind of rise as Harry Potter. Same trajectory.

Micah: Totally. And I feel like both of them – we’ll get into it when we talk about it – but I feel like they both normalized nerds.

Andrew: Hmm. It’s interesting you say that. I would say it’s cool to be a nerd now, whereas it wasn’t 10, 15, 20 years ago.

Micah: But I think Star Wars did that at that particular time when the first set of movies were coming out. People felt like it was okay to be a nerd. And Eric, obviously you’re kind of the… I look to you as the Star Wars expert, but I do feel like…

Andrew: But Eric wasn’t… none of us were alive when those first movies came out.

Eric: We’ve got to bring back Mikey B. on the show too.

Andrew: He wasn’t alive either.

[Andrew and Laura laugh]

Eric: No, but he’s a bigger Star Wars nerd than me, and Resistance Radio podcast. Well, thank you. No, what I wanted to speak to about that, though, is the crossover appeal, that Star Wars borrowed from so many other films’ styles, old Japanese ninja films, too. There’s just a ton of references that go way over my head, but it is stuff that was… the visual language that George Lucas used was evolved and appropriated from earlier cinema, from earlier storytelling, and Harry Potter is no different. Harry Potter, really, in its story, built off of lore for the various… everything from… creatures is the obvious thing, but also potions, what these magical properties of things like mandrake root had been said to represent for centuries. And so it was very smartly built up of, I want to say, recycled bits that had been used previously or established. It’s a question whether it’s being reused, or made new as a result of the combination, and I think that that’s what good storytelling does. I don’t think we’re going to see something wholly new, but I think we’re going to see the right combination of things at some point that really scratches that itch for us.

Andrew: Laura, you had a really good point about why Harry Potter has lasted after all this time, and maybe we can use this to talk about Star Wars a little more.

Laura: Yeah, I think a big part of it is because there is such a strong sense of identity that’s tied to these stories. Even casual Harry Potter fans know what Hogwarts House they’re in. We talk about this all the time. We even talk… I mean, we talked in an Instagram Live the other day about how I’m a Ravenclaw, but I have Slytherin tendencies. It just says a whole lot about who you are as a person to be able to say, “I’m a Ravenclaw,” and have so much about your personality captured in just that statement. There’s also the subject matter that you’re interested in. But even more important are the Patronuses. We have to remember there was a time where you could go take a Patronus quiz – I don’t know if it’s still up or not – and you could find out what your Patronus was. Mine’s an Irish Wolfhound; I feel like that says a lot about me. But people do like to talk about their fandom IDs, and that’s just something that transcends time, generations…

Andrew: Copyright MuggleCast.

Laura: Yep. [laughs]

Eric: It’s a shorthand. It’s a code. It’s jargon, but it’s ours. And that comes from these, again, worldly concepts such as spirit animal – although that’s problematic – these worldly concepts such as… even the House Sorting goes back to the four fates and the four types of personalities that the Greeks speculated there were. There’s centuries of research on this type of stuff that gets broken down into something that’s as popular as Harry Potter, and that’s how we get these combos that we have. That’s how you get somebody saying, “Hey, I’m a Hufflepuff.” It’s really exciting.

Laura: Yeah. Actually, Meg is… she hit the nail right on the head in our Discord. She said, “It’s the literary version of your zodiac sign.” 100%.

[Andrew laughs]

Micah: But it’s cooler. I mean, I know a lot of people are big into horoscopes and zodiacs, but I feel like many, many, many more people are into their Hogwarts Houses.

Andrew: It’s more modern. [laughs] At least. And often, more modern can be more cool. It’s in style. But zodiac signs are as well. So Star Wars, speaking of identity, I think people have a very, very big sense of identity within the Star Wars fandom as well, and these worlds, these planets… and actually, Eric, I’m glad you included a link to these to this group. There’s the 501st Legion, and it’s also a charity. These are people who dress up as Stormtroopers, right? Can you tell us about the 501st Legion?

Eric: Yeah, it’s Stormtroopers and actually an assortment of other characters if you’re costumed from Star Wars, and it’s become kind of… I mean, it’s a league, and it’s a cool way to get in with a group that’s doing good. There’s the social activism aspect of it; there’s also visiting kids in hospitals. Or actually, when Weird Al Yankovic – soon to be played by Daniel Radcliffe – goes on tour, he gets members of the 501st to back him up on stage when he sings about Yoda. It’s awesome stuff. But also, they give you tips and tricks, and everybody who’s a member of the 501st, the costume is screen accurate. So you’re dealing with artisans; you’re dealing with really creative types, people who are super passionate about something that they saw in a movie – or a TV series now – that they can then recreate, which as a cosplayer, I greatly and deeply respect the level of organization and the level of creativity that goes into this. To then also expand it out and make the community a better place, it’s everything you would want out of, I think, being a nerd today, being a fan today.

Andrew: Yeah. And I think now, even though Stormtroopers, for example, are villains and get killed very easily in Star Wars all the time…

[Eric laughs]

Andrew: … I think these people who dress up as Stormtroopers feel like this is their deep connection to the world. They really feel like they’re becoming a part of the world when they put on these costumes. And of course, it goes back to the fandom aspect, too; all these other people are also very into Star Wars to the point that they have the full Stormtrooper suit, and you make friends that way. It’s really cool.

Eric: Yeah, there’s a really cool thing about being allowed to be anonymous, when you’re behind the mask. I mean, even when I was wearing my Gryffindor robes, I wasn’t trying to dress as Harry; I was just myself as what I thought was a Gryffindor. And it’s being able to be yourself. The costume expresses you; it doesn’t control you. I don’t know. It’s really interesting.

Micah: I was going to bring up one thing, Eric, that you mentioned earlier that both of these series have in common, and that’s the escapism aspect of it. So escapism being this tendency to seek distraction and relief from unpleasant realities, especially by entertainment or engaging in fantasy, and these are two huge fantasy worlds. And I think the ability – we hear it from listeners all the time – to escape into the wizarding world is something that means a lot to them.

Andrew: And I really like this other point that you have here, Micah, about the fact that the creators are still living, both with Star Wars and Harry Potter.

Micah: I know we try and steer clear a little bit of talking about the author, but I think the fact that she is still around, as is George Lucas, is big, and the fact that you still have them to be able to give you information about these characters, about this world that they themselves created, is something that you don’t have a chance to do with a Tolkien or some of the other big time authors that have created series decades and decades and decades ago. And I think the fact that we were living through the rise of the Harry Potter series with the author is also something that’s very, very unique.

Eric: That was definitely, I think, one of those key ingredients again, is the relationship that the fans had with the creator.

Laura: Yeah, I mean, she was actively involved during all those years, so that’s huge.

Andrew: Now, George Lucas did sell Star Wars to Disney and Lucasfilm, so he’s not really actively creatively involved anymore. But I will add, to Micah’s point, that Disney very much wants to create a lot more Star Wars, and I think that adds to the hype, the active fandom around Star Wars, because it feels like you’re always on the cusp of something else. I mean, there’s two live action Star Wars TV shows that have come out on Disney+, and there are more to come. And then with Harry Potter, this is a franchise that we feel like a scripted TV show will be coming at some point; it’s just a matter of Warner Bros. trying to figure out a good story. And then we will – I think we’re all in agreement – at some point see the world open up to other creators like Disney has done with Star Wars.

Eric and Micah: Yeah.

Eric: And there’s also this idea of this guiding hand, right? So Kevin Feige does it with MCU; Jon Favreau and I think it’s Dave Filoni do it with Star Wars. For the most part, there’s a handful of creative execs that are being that guiding force that are making sure that consistency and quality of product are still being met, and that the storytelling demands are generally being followed, and that allows a lot of creators to work in the same space, and a lot of variables. As long as there’s a team of people, I think we’re learning how to do that multi-creator storytelling pretty well at this point. I’d be interested to see if the next Harry Potter is something like that, where it isn’t one person at all that’s doing it.

Micah: Definitely. And I think the other thing that is important about both of these series – and we light touched on it earlier – is that they do transcend generations. Harry Potter is a story that really anybody can read and connect with. The same can be said for Star Wars. I think, in particular, I’m going back to when they rereleased Episodes IV, V, and VI in theaters in the ’90s, and this was prior to Episodes I, II, and III coming out, and it gave a whole new generation the opportunity to go see the films. And then of course, now we have Episodes VII, VIII, IX, and think what you will of any of the other episodes that aren’t the original IV, V, and VI, but it gives that next generation the chance to become immersed into the world.

Andrew: All right, so we’re going to discuss if we think we’ll see another Harry Potter-level success in our lifetimes. And then we asked our patrons, “What books or series do you believe live up to the Harry Potter hype?” Because maybe there’s something out there right now that people are missing out on. Okay, so big question – place your bets now – will we see another Harry Potter-level of success in our lifetimes? I’m talking the fandom, the fan sites, the podcasts, the media hype, the detailed story, the excitement, the passion, all of it. Will we see it in our lifetimes?

Eric: And it has to be a book first, right?

[Andrew sighs]

Eric: This is a big decision to make. Plenty of new TV series are huge and popular.

Andrew: Well, that’s… yeah, but not even them have reached Harry Potter status. And I think when you think about Harry Potter status, you’re thinking about how it broke through. It had this huge success in both books and film format, so okay, if there’s going to be another Harry Potter, it’s got to hit two of those verticals. Books, TV, or movies, or all three.

Eric: Okay.

Andrew: What’s something that’s going to hit multiple verticals with wild success?

Eric: I like that explanation. I like that a lot.

Laura: I hope so.

[Andrew laughs]

Eric: You mean in our lifetime? That was the question?

Andrew: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Micah: But what do we think the impact would be on us? That’s my question. I hope that for the generations that have come after us that there’s something similar to it, but I think that part of the magic was the fact that it was truly this perfect storm of people and things coming together at just the right time. I don’t know that I’d want another Harry Potter. I think we have ours, and it was this really awesome… it still is this awesome experience, and it continues to evolve, right? The fact that we’re still doing this podcast in 2022, and that people are listening to us says that… to me, what’s in it for us if there’s something new? Are we hoping for another podcast series?

Andrew: [laughs] Pleasure, entertainment, happiness, joy… maybe another podcast for us. I mean, but Micah, you still read books.

Micah: Of course.

Andrew: And you love television and movies and stuff, so something like that but bigger. Why wouldn’t you want that?

Micah: Yeah, but I guess I just wouldn’t call it another Harry Potter. I could say Game of Thrones, but I still don’t think…

Eric: Well, no, to answer your question, I don’t think those are coming out in our lifetime.

Micah: The books? The last two books, yeah.

[Andrew and Eric laugh]

Laura: I don’t think they’re coming out ever.

[Andrew laughs]

Laura: Yeah, I hear what Micah is saying. And I guess when I think about the next Harry Potter, it’s going to look different, right? We sit here and we talk about the fan sites and the podcasts. That’s not how people consume content anymore, the way they used to. Podcasts have definitely seen a golden era, but fan sites, those are a thing of the past. So who knows, in another 10, 20, 30 years when the next big phenomenon comes along, how people are going to consume it? But I think it will happen. And it may not be for us, and that’s okay. But I still hope that something comes along, because I think every generation deserves to have that kind of phenomenon, I think. I mean, Harry Potter impacted all of our lives in so many positive ways. I mean, we wouldn’t know each other if it weren’t for Harry Potter. The closest people I know in my life are because of Harry Potter; some of the best work that I’ve done is because of Harry Potter, and it’s my fervent hope that every generation would get something like that.

Eric: Well, that’s another aspect that I think is really important, is the opportunities that were afforded to us because of Harry Potter. And the idea that a future generation, who are kids, who are the age we were when we were consuming Harry Potter, would also get to be that thing’s podcasters or that thing’s shepherds and their biggest fans…

Micah: Totally.

Eric: … I love that idea. I think it’s really interesting. In my most optimistic future, I think that there would be a piece of media – maybe it’s a book by a single creator – that is every bit as inclusive as we demand stories to be now, and the creator, if it’s one person, has to be every bit as non-problematic as we demand of creators to be now. And I don’t know, because that seems like a real tall order, but if it happens, I would want it to be that, and I would want it to be one creator that ticks all the boxes and gets it right, just to show that it can be done, and I wonder if that would even be popular.

Laura: Oh my God.

Eric: Here’s the other thing, is everybody bought into Harry Potter. The movie rights were optioned very early; people could tell it was going to be a success. Now, I think the other component is you need the approval. You need the very obvious person bankrolling something that’s never been quite that way before to make it the success that it is, and right now, studios and everything are going back to what’s already been. They’re not trying new things, and that kills creativity or cuts off the ankles of anything that could be getting started that could be really good for people.

Micah: Well, I’ll give a hot take: I think wanting another Harry Potter is greedy.

Andrew and Eric: Oooh!

Andrew: It’s not greedy. It’s called optimism, Micah. I’m optimistic that another Harry Potter will…

Micah: I don’t think it’s optimism.

Andrew: Yes, it is. I want it. I want it. I need it. And not just for myself – for everybody, like Laura was saying. But Eric, I liked your point, too, that studios are… it’s reboot central these days; they’re less interested in taking a risk on something entirely new. That said, they do try to option some books and stuff because they hope, too, there’s another Harry Potter someday. I was just thinking Percy Jackson. Percy Jackson has been very successful. Author Rick Riordan hasn’t gotten himself in trouble; seems like a really good guy. Disney+ just announced a few days ago – and we celebrated this on the MuggleCast Twitter account – Disney+ is adapting Percy Jackson into a TV series. Maybe that will make Percy Jackson blow up and then people will go back to the books, and then it’s just going to be this beautiful cycle of success.

Eric: That’s hopeful.

Micah: I liked those movies, though. I’m sad that they stopped them.

Andrew: [laughs] Rick Riordan hated the movies. No joke. And he was very open about it.

Micah: What does he know?

Andrew: Whoa!

Micah: I’m just kidding.

Andrew: So much edginess out of Micah tonight.

Eric: I’m so shocked about the author not liking the movie, considering that Chris Columbus directed The Lightning Thief. I’m really sad to hear that our boy Chris let somebody down with the adaptation, because I think his Harry Potter is to this day the standard, the gold standard.

Andrew: And now Rick Riordan is deeply involved in the television adaptation, so hopefully he won’t hate his work on the TV series.

[Andrew and Eric laugh]

Andrew: So I thought we should ask our patrons. Eric mentioned that he doesn’t read a lot, at least maybe not fantasy series, and I’ve got to admit I’m the same way. I think we all don’t read as much as we might want to. It’s a New Year’s resolution from time to time. So I thought, let’s ask our brilliant listeners…

Micah: I read.

Andrew: Okay, and Micah. Ask him too.

Micah: Laura reads.

Andrew: Well, actually, you’re going to hate this question, then. I don’t want your answer to this question, Micah; it’s just going to be “Nothing.” We asked our patrons: What books or series do you believe live up to the Harry Potter hype?

Laura: The first one comes from Laura M. Love Laura M.; she’s great. She says, “I would definitely say Keeper of the Lost Cities by Shannon Messenger. It’s such an expansive world and also a middle grade series that easily crossed the line between middle grade and adult. We are waiting for the ninth book and will be getting one more. We also did get a behind-the-scenes book like we craved for Harry Potter back in the day. And the author is just a delight, and a romance triangle that could rival Ron and Hermione, and Hermione and Harry.”

Andrew: Nice. Okay.

Eric: I have room in my heart for another love triangle.

[Laura and Micah laugh]

Eric: This next suggestion comes from Tom: “In modern literature, there is no series which even comes close. The most obvious comparison is Lord of the Rings. Both of the ‘worlds’ in each series are fleshed out and feel ‘lived in,’ meaning things are complex and not shiny and simple. Each random person you encounter seems to have their own backstory and personality, which is deep enough to be explored on its own. The scope of both series is also massive, tackling good and evil as subjects and characters in and of themselves. Most stories use characters and situations to set up moral dilemmas, however these epic stories take on the essence of morality itself in their epic confrontations of good and evil. This is a boring answer, but probably the only right one.”

[Andrew laughs]

Eric: Okay, Tom. I will take your recommendation to read Lord of the Rings, and I will consider it.

Andrew: I will not say it’s the only right one, but I think it’s a very good one. I like your reasoning here.

Laura: Yeah. I felt like Harry Potter was what really prepared me to read Lord of the Rings. I didn’t read Lord of the Rings until, I don’t know, I think it was probably after Order of the Phoenix came out and I was looking for something to sink my teeth into. So yeah, I think if you haven’t read Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter is a great jumping off point to consume those books.

Micah: Yeah, I’d only read The Hobbit prior to Harry Potter

Laura: I love The Hobbit.

Micah: This next one is from Andrew…

Andrew: But not me.

Micah: … who says, “Darren Shan’s Cirque Du Freak books. However, the movie was not pleasing. I think David Heyman was planning on doing a movie at the same time as the Harry Potter films, but unfortunately, that fell through.”

Andrew: Okay. Stacy said, “I was late to the party, but the Shadow and Bone series and spinoffs are very good. I have almost an entire shelf devoted to books by Tamora Pierce that I’ve read and reread many times. And the Inheritance series by Christopher Paolini is always near the top of my list. I think they got tossed aside because the movie adaptation was so catastrophically terrible that it wouldn’t make ANYONE want to read the books. But all in the realm of fairly realistic seeming fantasy, with lots of characters who are very well developed.” Yeah, I remember us talking about the Inheritance series from time to time – and we brought it up earlier in today’s episode – but we were talking about it from time to time on MuggleCast, I think, because it was pretty hot. The books were, at least.

Eric: I’m a big fan of Ben Barnes. I loved him in Westworld, but first I loved him as Prince Caspian in the Narnia movies.

Andrew: I didn’t mention this, but Shadow and Bone is on Netflix, and I think it’s very popular, just like the books are.

Micah: It’s a good series.

Andrew: Yeah? Okay.

Micah: I’ve watched it.

Andrew: Micah watches everything on Netflix. Everything.

[Eric laughs]

Micah: I just keep it on loop.

Andrew: Everything.

Micah: But you know what? People really didn’t like the Eragon adaptation, but I will say, I thought Jeremy Irons was awesome in that film. He’s awesome in most things.

Eric: Absolutely.

Laura: Yeah, Jeremy Irons is great.

Micah: But outside of that, you can throw the rest of it away. But he’s always just so good.

Laura: Right. [laughs]

Andrew: Credit to Christopher Paolini; he was very engaged with the fans, I remember. And one of our friends – his name was Mike; he was sort of involved with MuggleNet, I believe – he started an Inheritance fan site, and Christopher Paolini was working very closely with that.

Micah: Shur’tugal, right?

Andrew: Shut’tugal, yeah! That’s it. I wonder if it’s still up.

Eric: I’d hate to overlook that, too; there are creators that we know that are friends that are trying to do podcasts and things for these other series. In particular, the Shadow and Bone series, our friend Julianna and Geoff do “Into the Fold.” It’s a Grishaverse podcast, and they are up and coming with their podcast, and it’s about the Shadow and Bone books. I’d be remiss if we didn’t support our friends that are making content in those worlds, in those literary worlds, even if we’re not.

Andrew: Good point.

Laura: This next one comes from Caitlin, who says, “For me, it’s the A Court of Thorns and Roses series by Sarah J. Maas. It is gaining in popularity, for sure, and I’m glad it is, because it made me want to read it. It’s written for adults and is a fantasy series based off of Beauty and the Beast. The books are quite long, and like Harry Potter, I read them each within a few days. I also like that it was written by a woman. I like how the characters are developed throughout the series, and the plots are not overly complex. It’s mostly about the relationships between the characters, which is what Harry Potter was to me. I mostly liked finding a fantasy series aimed at adults that I enjoy; I never really liked Lord of the Rings, so this was perfect for me.” This is actually on my list because our friend Pamela over at Millennial podcast is reading this right now and she’s been gushing about it, so it is next on my list, and I’ll report back, y’all.

Andrew: Sweet.

Eric: This next one comes from Nathan, who says, “I’m going to take this two ways. First, Lord of the Rings and His Dark Materials, as they’re both complex and have allegories and are similar to the later half of the Harry Potter series. Lyra, like Harry, has a destiny unknown to her, and the specters are similar to Dementors. The His Dark Materials series on HBO Max is amazing and shows how Potter could do it (written by Cursed Child writer Jack Thorne; I just finished my annual reread and rewatch). Second, the Kingdom Keepers series by Ridley Pearson and the Charlie Bone series by Jenny Nimmo. Kingdom Keepers is set in Disney World and has a Toy Story theme (villains come alive after the park closes). Charlie Bone has special powers (he can heaar pictures) and attends boarding school. Both series have the whimsical feeling of Sorcerer’s Stone.” Wow.

Laura: Ooh.

Andrew: Nice.

Eric: Those are some good recommendations.

Laura: Yeah, definitely. I mean, of course, plus one million to Lord of the Rings. But His Dark Materials is another amazing series, and the show on HBO Max is really, really good, so if you haven’t checked that out, it’s awesome. It’s funny because His Dark Materials, the book series was coming out around the same time as the Harry Potter books, and it was definitely popular. There was a movie they made in like, 2003 that was pretty bad. It had Nicole Kidman in it and… shoot.

Eric: And Daniel Craig.

Laura: Daniel Craig. That’s right. I was like, “James Bond.” It was not a good movie, so getting a really good HBO Max series has been so great as a His Dark Materials fan.

Micah: One other one that just comes to mind quickly – I know we’re wrapping up – is Locke & Key on Netflix. I’m not sure if folks have seen that, but it’s very much the magical, whimsical series that some of the other people are referencing that’s just fun to enter that world. It’s basically different keys do different things when they’re inserted into the back of people’s necks.

Andrew: We also have to mention The Magicians; the television series was based on the book series. The TV series, I’ve heard very good things about; same things for the book. People have called this an adult Harry Potter. I’ve always wanted to read and/or watch this, but I just never got around to it. The Magicians has ended, unfortunately, but it ran for five seasons.

Eric: Lev Grossman, right?

Micah: It’s on Netflix.

Andrew: Okay. Micah loves Netflix!

[Micah laughs]

Eric: It’s possible there’s already the next Harry Potter; we just haven’t been sat down and forced to watch it.

Micah: Did you say you’ve read those books? Because I have read those books; they’re pretty good.

Andrew: I haven’t. Okay, good to know. Maybe I’ll…

Micah: I recommend reading the books first.

Andrew: Okay.

Eric: Micah is a reader.

Andrew: Yeah, and a big Netflix-er. All right, well, there’s our discussion. I feel like we just scratched the surface, but that was a good start, at least. If you have any feedback about today’s discussion, you can contact us by writing or sending a voice message to For the latter, just record a message using the Voice Memo app on your phone. You can also use the contact form on, or you can leave a voicemail on our phone. The number is 1-920-3-MUGGLE. That’s 1-920-368-4453. On next week’s episode, with Valentine’s Day right around the corner, we are going to discuss the power of love, baby, in the Harry Potter series, and also the vulnerability of male characters. That’s an important topic that’s really not touched on much anywhere in the world [laughs] as much as it should be.

Eric: Love it.


Andrew: It’s time for Quizzitch!

[Quizzitch music plays]

Eric: Well, we asked and you delivered, listeners. I think we have to incentivize this stuff from now on. Last week’s question was: What are the names of Severus Snape’s parents? And it was for a prize. Over 103 people submitted.

Andrew: Wow. Good.

Eric: We’re not going to name them all.

Micah: That’s going to break the bank. Oh, we’re not giving away to everybody.

Eric: Yeah, we’re only giving away five copies of Irvin’s book, who was on last week’s episode. And the winners, randomly chosen from the assortment who got the correct answers… did I say…? Eileen Prince and Tobias Snape, by the way. The correct answers were submitted by these winners: MustBeAWeasley92; Mundy Sun; Levi-OH-sa; Pottah; and the Ravenclaw Knocker. We have your email; we’re going to be emailing you. Give us your address. We’ll send you a book.

Andrew: Excellent. I’m glad so many people were interested in receiving a copy of Irvin’s book: Dumbledore: The Life and Lies

Eric: Love it. And I was feeling very guilty that I did not ever read the Divergent series, given how much time we spent just talking about Hunger Games and all that, so next week’s Quizzitch question is a Divergent question: In the Divergent book series, Beatrice Prior finds that she is Divergent, and in fact has equal aptitude for three of the five factions. Which faction does she choose to join? And for bonus credit, but not a book, name the three options available to Tris. Submit your answer to us over on the MuggleCast website,, or go to and click on “Quizzitch” in the menu.

Andrew: I hope Veronica Roth answers the question.

[Andrew and Eric laugh]

Eric: I hope she still listens.

Andrew: Me too, me too. Couple reminders before we wrap up: Make sure you are following MuggleCast for free in your favorite podcast app so you never miss an episode, and leave us a review if they allow you to, especially those of you over in Apple Podcasts and Spotify; we would really appreciate a quick review. Also, don’t forget to follow us on social media. Our username is @MuggleCast on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok! Lots of fun stuff happening across all channels, so do follow on whichever you use. Thanks, everybody, for listening. I’m Andrew.

Eric: I’m Eric.

Micah: I’m Micah.

Laura: And I’m Laura.

Andrew: Bye, everyone.

Eric, Laura, and Micah: Bye.