Pottermore and the problem of time travel

•August 1, 2013 • 24 Comments

So those following know that the final seven chapters of Prisoner of Azkaban went live on Pottermore within the last few days, which means more new information for us to enjoy. This is wonderful, and the biography of Lupin in particular is absolutely lovely (and makes me want to amend my character portrait of him to add some of the new information!). But there’s another entry that makes me want to cry. It comes when Jo tries to give more information on the Time-Turner.

Her insights on the problems it caused her as an author were very well done, and her explanation that traveling back more than a few hours messes with the fabric of time and can’t be attempted is a stroke of brilliance. But there are two passages that unravel much of the beautiful simplicity of the one chapter of the books that actually contains time travel. Here’s the first:

What is more, her five days in the distant past caused great disturbance to the life paths of all those she met, changing the course of their lives so dramatically that no fewer than twenty-five of their descendants vanished in the present, having been “un-born.”

Sigh. Repeat after me: this is not how time travel works. I recognize the temptation to think of it this way, but when a person travels back in time, they do not change the past. They merely become another person who is part of the past, exactly as it took place.

When Harry and Hermione stood in the hospital wing and spun the time-turner, Buckbeak had already been saved and Sirius Black was already flying away. There was no “version” of the past that was altered when they went back; there is merely one linear span of time that exists the way it does. Dumbledore sends them back because he already knows there was an extra Harry and Hermione that saved Buckbeak. And if Eloise Mintumble changed things in 1402 so that somebody failed to have 25 descendents, it is no different from my changing the present so that someone in 2013 fails to have 25 descendents over the next five centuries. The descendents are not un-born, because the events that happened in 1402 (with Eloise present) are the events that always happened in 1402. Nothing. Else. Makes. Sense.

Here’s the other quote that drives me crazy:

Secondly, I had Hermione give back the only Time-Turner ever to enter Hogwarts.

You could argue on a technicality that this single Time-Turner is one that various students over the years have shared, but I don’t think that’s what Jo meant. I think she meant that Hermione is the only student ever to have a Time-Turner. This type of hyperbolized superlative exists throughout the books, and I’ve talked before about my distaste for it, but even beyond that this particular claim really bothers me.

Here’s the thing. Barty Crouch Jr. got twelve O.W.L.s. So did Percy Weasley. If they were able to do this without Time-Turners – either by adjusting the class schedule or allowing them to miss certain classes or what-have-you – then Hermione is perfectly able to attempt the same four years later without a Time-Turner as well. But if Hermione could only do it with a Time-Turner, as far as I’m concerned, we have absolute proof that Percy and Barty did too. And probably many, many other students before, during, and after them.

This is something that probably happens every few years at a minimum, and it’s virtually certain that there have been times that more than one student has possessed one at the same time (in fact Percy was taking twelve N.E.W.T. classes during Hermione’s third year. I’ve suggested before that they might have run into each other ducking into a broom closet at some point). You can argue the danger of this all you want; it nevertheless is the reality of Hogwarts as it is presented to us in the books. To suggest that Hermione is the only student ever granted this magic is hogwash. But now it’s canon. And I couldn’t be more frustrated.

Why do these things bother me so much? Here’s why: I LOVE this world. I love the intricacies of it, I love how well-thought-out it is, I love that even the puzzles that Rowling didn’t really intend to exist can usually still be solved. When Rowling posts something like this, and it isn’t fully thought-out (and this isn’t the first time I’ve vehemently disagreed with something she’s written on Pottermore), it undermines the integrity of that world and makes it less enjoyable for us “obsessives” that Rowling once said her books were written for.

Yes, there are a few things in the wizarding world that it is legitimately impossible to make sense of. But there are very few, and most of these problems stem from things Rowling has said off-the-cuff in interviews. Pottermore does not need to be done off-the-cuff. It is writing that is prepared ahead of time and that can be properly edited before being added to the canon of Harry Potter. And it’s disrespectful to fans when this isn’t done. Does Pottermore simply not have an editor checking these things over? I’d do it for free, and I’m surely not the only one qualified who would.

Please, please, please, Jo. Take the time to do this right.

Signed, one of your biggest fans.

New Artwork: Book Three

•May 28, 2013 • 3 Comments

I’m continuing to go through my collection and add art throughout the books – today I’ve updated about half of the chapters in book 3 with excellent new art. Most of it is drawings I’ve found since I originally posted the chapters (and that was several years ago!). Here’s what I’ve added:

  • In PA1, a classic piece showing the Weasley family in Egypt by Marta T;
  • In PA2, a new drawing of Aunt Marge blowing up by gerre;
  • In PA3, a color sketch of Sirius in dog form in the alley by Agatha Macpie;
  • In PA6, a wonderful drawing of Harry bowing to Buckbeak, also by Agatha Macpie;
  • In PA8, a sketch of Ron and Hermione returning from Hogsmeade, by gerre;
  • In PA11, a detailed drawing of McGonagall inspecting the Firebolt, also by gerre;
  • In PA14, a depiction of Lupin, Snape, and Harry looking at the Marauder’s Map, by Vizen;
  • In PA17, a powerful new drawing of Sirius Black, by Dunland;
  • In PA21, a fantastic depiction of Hermione and Harry using the Time-Turner, by Jess Siswick;
  • Also in PA21, a drawing of the dementors flocking to Sirius Black, by Miri; and finally
  • In PA22, a wonderful piece showing Harry and Dumbledore talking, by Caladan.


Character Portrait: Luna Lovegood

•May 26, 2013 • 1 Comment

I have to confess that I’m a huge fan of Luna Lovegood. Not for her humor – though she does make me laugh – but for her spirit. More than any other character we meet in this series (and perhaps in any book), Luna is unapologetically unafraid to be herself. And the scene at the end of Order of the Phoenix where Luna talks with Harry about Sirius’s death is, I think, one of the most beautiful, poignant moments of the stories. And while I wish we’d known her for longer, and gotten to see her grow more, it’s not hard to envision the ways in which she became the person she is – or the ways in which she might grow after the books are finished, as well.

So I thoroughly enjoyed building her character page, of course. I hope you enjoy reading it as much. :)

Character Portrait: Luna Lovegood

And I almost forgot! Welcome to our 119th artist, Roby-boh!

Quiz Yourself

•May 23, 2013 • 2 Comments

There was a conversation going on Reddit today about all of the various spells that Harry has ever used; I got interested so sat down and made a definitive list of them. I posted it as a quiz on Sporcle, if you’re interested in testing yourself to see how many you remember. Warning: it’s difficult! :)

Spells Cast by Harry Potter

Character Portrait: Neville Longbottom

•May 15, 2013 • 3 Comments

I’ve been told several times by readers that their favorite part of this website is the character portraits. I haven’t done very many thus far (they were the last section I started on, and each one takes a HUGE amount of time), but they hold a special place in my heart, too. So I’ve been working on adding a couple more this week. Today I’ve updated with one new one, a portrait of the character whose growth throughout the books is perhaps most impressive of all, and a character for whom I think we all have a soft spot in our hearts. I hope you enjoy taking his journey along with him.

Character Portrait: Neville Longbottom

New Artwork: (Mostly) Chamber of Secrets

•May 12, 2013 • 9 Comments

Hi there! I’ve just finished a rough tech process, and was in need of some escapism… what better way to provide that than the world of HP? I’ve been doing some maintenance around the site (and if you see any places that need it, please say so in the comments). But more importantly, I’ve had a queue of about 175 drawings sitting on my computer, waiting to be inserted into the stories. Many of them are just brilliant, and many are artists who haven’t appeared here before, and I wanted to start sharing them! So today, I’m posting 17 new drawings, mostly from book two.

First, I put in some book one updates a while back (that page is here), but there’s one drawing I’ve since found that I wanted to add, which is a beautiful depiction of Hagrid’s hut, drawn by a new artist named RavenclawRadiance. It’s in PS15.

The rest of the new drawings are all from book two. If you’re inspired to see them in context, you’re encouraged to read through the full book! But I’ve also posted them to the artists’ pages, of course. They come from four different artists:

First, there’s a professional illustrator named Felicia Cano who I’ve had my eye on for some time, and who has graciously consented to allow her Harry Potter-themed work to be used here. You can visit her page to see the first three drawings I’ve posted here (Lockhart, Sprout, and Percy), and I assure you that more will be coming soon;

Second, the incomparable Keith James is still chugging along with his one-drawing-per-chapter project, and has finished drawing Chamber of Secrets. I’ve added quite a few new drawings of his, which you can also see on his page (everything from CS7-on is new);

Third, yet another lovely new artist named Jess Siswick has contributed two drawings, with more to come in the future;

And finally, I’ve added a new drawing of the trio from one of this site’s all-time favorite artists, gerre. You can see it on the page for CS13.

Hope you enjoy! And there will be comments open in this thread for a while, so feel free to reach out to me here. :)


Looking to the Future

•January 29, 2013 • 2 Comments

This is another page I’ve had sitting in queue for a while, and wanted to go ahead and post. It’s actually one of the Off Camera pages I’ve always most looked forward to. It takes a look at what life might have been like for the first days, weeks, and months after Voldemort’s fall:

Harry Potter Off Camera: The Aftermath

The extremes of emotions in those times are really appealing from an artistic perspective, and the artwork absolutely lives up to them. So I hope you enjoy!