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October 20, 2007

Out of the Broom Closet, Endlessly Rocking
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 08:10 AM *

Dumbledore was gay.

Rowling says so, and she’s the only one who would know for sure. The love of his life was Gellert Grindelwald.

From BBC:

Harry Potter author JK Rowling has revealed a big secret about Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore’s past - he was in love with another wizard.

During her American book tour JK was asked if Dumbledore found true love.

“Dumbledore is gay,” she replied, before adding that he’d fallen in love with his rival Gellert Grindelwald.

But she said Dumbledore was “terribly let down” when Grindelward became more interested in the dark arts than good, and so he went on to destroy him.

“That love was Dumbledore’s great tragedy,” she said.

Fans at New York’s Carnegie Hall were initially stunned into silence by the announcement, but soon started clapping and cheering.

The news should help to clear up lots of rumours about Dumbledore’s mysterious past once and for all.

Comments on Out of the Broom Closet, Endlessly Rocking:
#1 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 08:26 AM:

"The news should help to clear up lots of rumours about Dumbledore’s mysterious past once and for all."

Not to mention inspiring loads of new fanfic.

#2 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 08:45 AM:

Unless I'm very much mistaken, fanfic will have beaten her to it by several months.

(Ms. Rowling, if you're reading this: Please don't tell us about Aberforth and the goat. I really don't want to know.)

#3 ::: Chris Ashley ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 09:11 AM:

Several other answers at the same event are transcribed at The Leaky Cauldron, including the answer she gives an eight-year-old (!) who asks about Aberforth's goat charm.

#4 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 09:13 AM:

Rowling is clearly taking the piss from an audience that takes these books very seriously.

Did I use that colloquialism correctly?

#5 ::: Spiegel ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 09:27 AM:

Lila @2, indeed I recall comments about the "beautiful Nazi boyfriend" the weekend book 7 was released. I'd be very surprised if nobody had written it yet, although this may spark more interest.

On the subject of things I *don't* want JKR to explain, Hadrid's parents are at the top of the list.

#6 ::: Tracey S. Rosenberg ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 09:42 AM:

Damn, now there's a bar bet I really should have made.

#7 ::: Madeline Kelly ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 09:44 AM:

Josh Jasper #4: I'd replace the "from" with a "with". Or perhaps you weren't asking a serious question -- not always easy to tell on the internet.

I wonder if Grindelwald was gay too?

#8 ::: maybecca ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 09:49 AM:

Josh Jasper #4: "taking the piss out of an audience", I'd say.

#9 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 09:54 AM:

#5: there's something wrong about being attracted to tall women? :-)

#10 ::: BSD ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 10:15 AM:

The nice thing about this is it really helps the understanding of that period in Dumbledore's history, and makes his VERY FIRST extended mention (his Chocolate Frog card) bittersweet (ba-dump-bump).

#11 ::: A.J. Luxton ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 10:29 AM:

VERY clever PR on her part. She waited until the book has been out long enough that everyone's bought it and conservative parents/bullying kid crowds won't have been scared off by 'teh ghey', but now makes the announcement while she's still firmly in the spotlight, so that everyone, now having read all the books, will be saying "Wow, dude! Dumbledore!"

I am always thrilled about the sociocultural aspects of these books and loved the politics in the last couple, even if I was dissatisfied with certain characters' treatment.

#12 ::: cap ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 10:38 AM:

Woo-hoo! He really is a poofter!

I'd been seeing Dumbledore fanfic for years, but it wasn't until book 7 that I saw any I would actually want to read. If you get my meaning.

#13 ::: Sajia Kabir ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 10:39 AM:

I still think Lupin was in love with Sirius. Tonks always struck me as being too self-assured to have the sort of needy relationship she did with Lupin in the last two books

#14 ::: mcz ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 10:49 AM:

Fanfic was mentioned in the AP article in the SMH:

Dumbledore's love, she observed, was his "great tragedy".

"Oh, my God," Rowling concluded with a laugh, "the fan fiction."

Potter readers on fan sites and elsewhere on the internet have speculated on the sexuality of Dumbledore, noting that he has no close relationship with women and a mysterious, troubled past. And explicit scenes with Dumbledore already have appeared in fan fiction.

#15 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 10:55 AM:

OMG!!! And he's in charge of a school full of children!! Gotta burn them books!!!

Actually, what we were told about the relationship between the characters, and the lack of any mention of any close emotional relationship for Dumbledore afterwards, did have me wondering, a little bit, if that was being hinted at.

#16 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 11:00 AM:

Coming soon.. Crossover slash fiction between Dumbledore and Pirates of the Caribbean's Barbossa...

#17 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 11:08 AM:

Is it still "slash" if the characters are known to be gay?

#18 ::: G. Jules ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 11:11 AM:

Re: #10: I thought of the Chocolate Frog card too, BSD.

#19 ::: A.J. Luxton ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 11:12 AM:

I remember when "slash" meant non-canon pairings, straight or gay.

I think there's still an active argument over whether it means 'all gay pairings, canon or non-canon' now or just 'all non-canon gay pairings.'

#20 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 11:28 AM:

Jon Meltzer @ 17... True, as was pointed out in the fanfic thread. But we don't know about Barbossa's proclivities. No matter what, I'd surprised that there is no crossover of any kind between Potter and Pirates.

#21 ::: Jen Roth ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 11:47 AM:

I remember when "slash" meant non-canon pairings, straight or gay.

When was that? It has always been my understanding that the term 'slash' meant same-sex pairings, back to K/S. Granted that opposite-sex pairings have also been indicated by the '/' character for some time, which confuses the matter.

Personally, I sort of prefer for 'slash' to refer only to same-sex pairings with characters who aren't canonically gay, but that's just because of when I started slashing (about 10-11 years ago). There still were very few canonically gay or bi characters, and writers and producers would sometimes go to great lengths to establish their characters' "straight cred", particularly the men. (Not that this has changed so much in some cases.) Open same-sex romantic relationships, at least for main characters, were precluded by the text, so slash was an exercise in ferreting out subtext. That became a central part of the slash experience *to me*. Same-sex pairings with canonically gay or bi characters are great, but they just don't have the same feel.

Anyway, I think I'm on the losing side of that argument, and 'slash' is coming to refer to any same-sex pairing.

#22 ::: Rob Hansen ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 12:21 PM:

I remember Roz Kaveney telling me at the time the book appeared that she read the Grindelward/Dumbledore relationship that way and that she figured Rowling had been careful to write it the way she had to forestall the howls of outrage from the usual far-right/religious reich cretins. Looks like Roz was right.

#23 ::: Magenta Griffith ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 12:24 PM:

Actually, coming out of the *broom* closet usually refers to someone telling people they are a Witch or Pagan or some related practice. Dumbledore has been out of the broom closet since the beginning. He has finally been outed from the GLBT closet. (Is it outing when an author reveals a character to be gay?)

#24 ::: Will Entrekin ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 12:32 PM:

When I was an undergrad, I went to see a poet named Dana Gioia read. He related a story about driving along a road and hearing a song, and how it inspired a poem he then performed. When it came time for the Q&A, I asked him what song it was.

He replied: "What song do you want it to be?"

I've since thought of that often. That there's something to be said for the story being the story and the book being the book. For knowing that there are probably ten other drafts of the book I'm reading, all with other information than I've got, but this is the one that's the story. For knowing that authors have to know tons of backstory to understand the story itself but never need write the backstory down.

The past few days, I've just wished Rowling would stop talking. She wrote seven books, all of which I read and enjoyed like I've enjoyed few other books over the course of my life. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is among the most satisfying books I've ever read.

It's not that I care that Dumbledore is gay, nor that Harry Potter is a Christian allegory (as I read she said the other day).

It's just that I don't care, nor believe that knowing so contributes a single iota to enjoying the story she told. I'm fully confident in Rowling's abilities as a storyteller that if such information were in any way pertinent to the story she told (indeed, if any other information were pertinent to that story), she'd have put it in.

I suppose I just wished that, when asked such questions, she'd look at the asker and say, in her wonderful brogue, "If I thought that were relevant, I would've put it in. Perhaps one day I'll write another to explore it."

(please, God, tell me that The Harry Potter Encyclopedia I heard she was considering won't contain an entry on "Christian allegory")

Neil Gaiman's really good at non-answering questions. My favorite was the moment at one Q&A when someone asked, via a small note card, whether he had any religious beliefs.

He said, simply, "Yes."

And then moved right on.

#25 ::: Spiegel ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 12:42 PM:

#9 It's just unnatural, man. Not like the beautiful Draco/Giant Squid love.

#21 Whereas I started reading slash (and indeed fanfic) in the Vampire Chronicles, so not being canon was never a part of the definition. :)

My impression from other discussions is that some people say that slash meant (in its origins) or should be non-canon pairings (now that there are gay characters in canon), but that's not how the majority saw it back then or now. I don't know if there's any hard evidence, though. Possibly a case of everyone assuming that everyone else was using the same definition?

#26 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 12:51 PM:

I didn't think Lupin was crushing on Sirius, but more than once I thought Sirius' reaction to things would make a lot more sense if he were in love with James Potter.

It'd also add some nice symmetry to his relationship with Snape.

#27 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 12:58 PM:

25: Draco/Giant Squid

eh,what?

#28 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 01:00 PM:

I also object to the notion that Rowling is "the only one who would know for sure". The text is the text.

Now, I haven't read Book 7 yet. Maybe there are some implications in there. And it's true that there's nothing in the other six about Dumbledore ever having had a wife or girlfriend. So it's plausible that he's gay.

But non-textual assertions are ultimately just non-textual assertions, even if they come from the author. I remember Joss Whedon being notorious for saying non-textual things about Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and then later contradicting them in the actual show.

#29 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 01:03 PM:

I also object to the notion that Rowling is "the only one who would know for sure". The text is the text.

Then we differ. The view that "the author is just another reader" is one that leads down the path to subtext hunting and similar insanity.

Only the author knows, and if the author's forgotten then no one knows, or ever could know.

#30 ::: sdn ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 01:05 PM:

yes, very clever of her to mention the "christian allegory" and the homosexuality now. imagine if she had done it two or three years ago. and for some people those things will cancel each other out.

personally, i loved her cleavage shot!

#31 ::: Sylvia ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 01:18 PM:

Favourite comment that I've seen so far:

"It shows that there's no limit to what gay and lesbian people can do, even being a wizard headmaster"

Er...

#32 ::: JCarson ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 01:28 PM:

Does it strike anyone else as a bit of the easy way out, though? I mean, within the text, there are hints, but never any outright contradiction to total heteronormativity. Everyone who officially pairs off does so with opposite-sex partners. There's not even a throwaway reference to some random pair of witches or wizards, accepted or not.

Tossing the "Dumbledore's gay!" information to us at this point seems to me trying to have it both ways - the ones who want to claim it doesn't count because it's not in the books can be happy with the total heterosexuality within the books, and those of us who see the slash get a little bit of "official" backing.

#33 ::: Shawn Struck ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 01:43 PM:

After this first twinge of "Hey! That's neat!" faded, I realized that I agree with wokeitten:

"I'm irritated with JK Rowling's recent revelation. Not because Dumbledore is gay; I really like to see these kinds of issues addressed in literature for kids. And that's why I'm pissy. If you wanted to make Dumbledore a revolutionary character, Rowling, why didn't you take your metaphorical balls in your hand and actually reveal him as being a homosexual in the book? Kids listen to what you say and accept your morals. Why have you wasted that?"

#34 ::: Jen Roth ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 01:55 PM:

JCarson: It strikes me that way, as well.

Avram: Buffy is the example I always use when I argue that the viewer is not obliged to take everything the writer says extratextually as canon. At the end of Season 6, when Fcvxr tbrf gb gur qrzba naq fnlf, "Znxr zr gur jnl V jnf" (be jungrire, vg'f orra n ybat gvzr fvapr V jngpurq vg), gurer ner ng yrnfg gjb jnlf bs vagrecergvat jung unccrarq arkg:

* Ur zrnag ur jnagrq uvf fbhy onpx, naq tbg jung ur jnagrq.
* Ur zrnag ur jnagrq gb or gur jnl ur jnf orsber ur tbg gur puvc, naq gur qrzba chyyrq n snfg bar ba uvz.

Gurfr ner ng yrnfg rdhnyyl cynhfvoyr va gur grkg, naq V yrnarq gbjneq gur ynggre vagrecergngvba. Gurer jnf pregnvayl ab jnl gb qrsvavgviryl qrpvqr orgjrra gurz. Gura Wbff fnvq va na vagreivrj gung bs pbhefr, Fcvxr zrnag gung ur jnagrq uvf fbhy onpx. V sryg gung gung jnf purngvat, va n jnl; rvgure ur'q zrnag gb pbairl gung Fcvxr jnagrq uvf fbhy onpx naq snvyrq gb qb fb pyrneyl, be ur jnf qryvorengryl nzovthbhf. Either way, he'd already *had* his chance. So to me, that's not canon -- creators don't get "do-overs".

#35 ::: Matthew Daly ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 02:07 PM:

#31: O.o That claim isn't substantiated by any of the books that *I* read....

I agree with the "easy way out" crowd. I am reminded of a scene in the Simpsons in which a naturalist looked down on a rhino stampede and smugly said "I *told* 'em that this would happen! No, wait, I didn't. I *meant* to tell 'em!"

It would have been moving to include in the story that destroying Grindlewald affected Dumbledore's heart as much as his sense of right. Let's go farther and assert that Nicolas Flamel was also a lover and Dumbledore took a further hit in causing his death by taking the Philosopher's Stone away from him. My gosh, you've got so much fuel for some really powerful character development there.

This isn't that, this is just outing a dead man. This is reading a fortune cookie and adding the words "in bed" at the end.

And I call dibs on the revelation that Snape is Jewish.

#36 ::: A.J. ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 02:32 PM:

#32 and the "easy way out"

I don't blame her for not including it in the book. Not because it would be "wrong" to in a moral sense, but because it would be extraneous; the book already had enough subplots going in it, and I'm not sure Dumbledore in love would have added anything. (The book is, after all, already bloody long enough.)

To whit: Dumbledore needed blacking down, not redemption through love. It was Snape's redemption that needed to be shown, because his character was on the way up.

Much as was revealed about Dumbledore and Snape, the books were always about Harry and his imperfect perceptions of the world.

There are plenty of other interesting subplots that could have been added but weren't---for instance, Dean's missing father would have added quite a bit of poignancy for a minor character. But his story was not as important as Neville's arc, which reflected Harry's, and so Dean remained in the minor cast in the book text.

When you write, you can never include everything in a book. You must always, always, always pare the subplots down until they all cooperate towards some main theme you want to support. It's difficult and it leaves a lot of good stuff out, but such is writing---fiction or non-fiction.

When an author has spent ages constructing their world, I think it would be obvious and respectful to think that any knowledge about the world is theirs. She spent far more than a decade steeped in its history, after all. It is a bit like saying that Tolkien's notes are meaningless until things like Children of Hurin are published after his death.

The sojourn of the author in their world should never be underestimated. After all, some of the undercurrents stir the surface, even if the deep dive tour is never provided.

#37 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 02:34 PM:

The view that "the author is just another reader" is one that leads down the path to subtext hunting and similar insanity.

Oh, horrors! Creative and intelligent reading! We can't have that.

Now that I've thought about it some more, Rowling's claim about Dumbledore seems almost like a literary practical joke. First, the entire wizarding world in the Potter books reads like a metaphor for homosexuality. You've got an entire culture hiding itself and its activities from the outside world. Look at how the Dursleys treat Harry, as if they're hoping to beat the weirdness out of him and turn him normal, or at least scare him into pretending to be normal. At the start of the series, Harry's even literally living in a closet.

And on top of this, the series takes place at an English boarding school. Need I say more about that?

Dumbledore is supposed to be the greatest wizard alive. If wizards are queer, that makes him the queerest of the queer, metaphorically. Yet no direct statement is made in the text about Dumbledore's literal, non-metaphoric, sexuality. As Nick Mamatas points out, the common literary practice of "queering" a text generally involves ignoring authorial extra-textual claims about the story and reading presumptively straight characters as gay. In Dumbledore's case, it's people who want to read the character as straight who are going to have to try to hunt through the text for evidence to refute the author's claim.

#38 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 02:36 PM:

On a tangent to the topic, I was watching HBO's "Tell Me You Love Me" last night. This show is specifically about the evolution of and stresses on long-term committments, presented by three married couples at different stages of the relationship, and one unmarried, but entangled, pair. All are heterosexual. After each episode, several interviews with couples who have just watched this episode are shown. Last night, the first interview couple discussed the 30-something couple in the show who are seriously stressed as they try to conceive a child, in the context of their own interest in having children. No special point was made about the fact that the interviewed couple was gay. It was so smoothly done that it looked completely natural, though, given the nature of Hollywood, I am sure several producers writhed in agony for some time before agreeing to it.

Maybe I haven't been watching closely, but this feels like a milestone (however carefully contrived it may have been) in the public presentation of sexual relationships in the US. Shame that it's take so long, but at least a sign of some sort of progress in the normalizing of the cultural attitude towards sex in this country.

#39 ::: A. Jericho ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 02:53 PM:

#37 - the reverse queering amuses me in this case, if nothing else. :)

(sorry about post #36... I'm not the usual A.J. who posts here...)

#40 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 03:11 PM:

I think that if Rowling had put anything about Dumbledore being gay explicitly in the book, no matter how unemphasized it was, that point would have been blown up into a major controversy. And that wasn't the story she wanted to be the focus of attention.

In some ways, yes, it would have been nice if she'd been open about it all along. But I think there's still something to be said for "That character you loved so much? Guess what, he was gay. See, not so scary, is it? (Oh, and those two nice young men, Tom and Carl, who live in that big house on Rose with the tall poplar hedge? Guess what?)

It implies some interesting things about the wizarding world that in all of the nasty things said about Dumbledore by his detractors, including the stuff about his relationship with Grindlewald, there's no hint of comment about his orientation.

#41 ::: Will Entrekin ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 03:11 PM:

I have no doubt Rowling knew he was gay. I simply take Umbridge (ha!) with her revealing it outside the books. If it was part of the story, put it in. If it wasn't, shouldn't matter.

Tolkien's notes aren't meaningless; I'm sure they helped him write his book. Whether or not they need to be shared is another story entirely.

Most writers have stacks of notes/materials/etc. (sometimes those stacks are mental) that never make it into the book. Stacks that helped the writers figure out how to tell the story but had nothing to do with the actual story to be told except in very peripheral ways.

Doesn't mean that Dumbledore's sexuality couldn't have been explored in another book. Perhaps a revelation in a prequel.

#42 ::: Jen Roth ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 03:18 PM:

Joel @40: It implies some interesting things about the wizarding world that in all of the nasty things said about Dumbledore by his detractors, including the stuff about his relationship with Grindlewald, there's no hint of comment about his orientation.

Well, not quite. There were some nasty mutterings in some circles about what Dumbledore's interest in Harry really was. Jumping to the conclusion that "gay man mentoring a young boy = pedophile" seems the very model of anti-gay bigotry.

#43 ::: ML ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 03:35 PM:

@ #19

The fanfic trend right now looks like it's a "/" or one of those "smush" names if the pairing is romantic/sexual (regardless of orientation), and "&" or a comma if it's a general story featuring those characters (non-romantic/sexual relationship).

Now the words are different matter all together. "Slash" is same-sex pairings, "het" is opposite-sex pairings, and "gen" mean at least the leads aren't paired off, but most writers usually throw in "mentions of X/Y" if some other romantic relationship is referenced. There's also "pre-slash", which means there's subtext if you chose to read into it. I don't know if there's an equivalent "pre-het" term; if it exists, I haven't seen it.

...And I'm going to stop there.

#44 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 03:42 PM:

Doesn't it seem reasonable that an author should have the final say on their own relationship to the text and its contents? Some feel that they've set out a universe and established a framework of characters which establishes a canon, and others are free to play there, as long as they don't try to change the courses of the rivers or move the planets around. To others, each book is sui generis, and anything someone else says about it or does with it has nothing to do with what the author did or intended. And some put so much into what they write that they abhore the idea of someone else using any part of it in a different way. There's no way to say which of these relationships is "better" or "correct", they all involve the way a person feels about the result of their work. The way other people may feel about that work is not relevant to the author's feelings.

OTOH, the author's feelings are not an objective fact. Any thoughts and feelings are subject to change, re-evaluation, and even rejection over time. Much of this discussion was gone over in great detail on the ML thread about Ray Bradbury's attitude towards "Fahrenheit 451".

My conclusion, if I have one, is that there's no reason why J. K. Rowling can't speak out about some point of her work that she didn't expand on in the book as much as she might now like. And while important points probably "should" be in the work, there are often forces external to the work that mitigate against it. In this case, the need for fighting a major PR war with Christian fundamentalists over just the existence of a gay character probably made the inclusion of that particular bit of character exposition considerably less desirable. Maybe politics and religious intolerance "shouldn't" have anything to do with art and writing, but it does, no denying.

#45 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 03:48 PM:

Jen Roth @ 42: There were some nasty mutterings in some circles about what Dumbledore's interest in Harry really was.

I don't remember any of that in the books. Something by Rita Skeeter?

#46 ::: Eleanor ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 03:52 PM:

#41: She revealed it because somebody asked her in a session which was full of questions about extratextual matters. From your point of view, is she wrong to do these Q&A sessions at all? Or should she have declined to share her answer to that question? If so, what gives it special status?

I've long been frustrated by how socially conservative the wizarding world seemed. Once people leave school, everyone who's in a romantic relationship is either married or planning to get married. I can't even think of anyone who has remarried after being widowed, and in the first Voldemort war you'd think there would be a lot of widowing going on. Nobody has children out of wedlock, not even Merope Gaunt/Riddle. Nobody is cohabiting with a lover. Nobody has extramarital affairs. Nobody gets divorced. And this is in modern Britain where such things are commonplace. I know it probably wouldn't have been relevant to the story, nor is she Jacqueline Wilson, but she could have dropped a few different things into the mix just for verisimilitude. This disclosure about Dumbledore redresses the situation a little.

#47 ::: Spiegel ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 04:07 PM:

Jon @27: Sorry, I thought you knew about HP's crazy pairings.

Jen @34:
Either way, he'd already *had* his chance. So to me, that's not canon -- creators don't get "do-overs".

But if there *are* two ways of reading that scene, how can it be not canon? Mind you, I'm not saying that the first option is more canon than the other. I mean that if nobody could have possibly gotten Joss's interpretation or if he was talking about a scene that was cut in the editing (like, say, Methos tossing Kronos down a well in Highlander), then I'd agree that it isn't canon, regardless of what he said.

#48 ::: Will Entrekin ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 04:11 PM:

Oh, no, she's not wrong. I just wish she'd chosen to answer the questions by not doing so, like the two authors I mentioned upthread generally do, and maybe, I don't know, putting it in another book where it has something to do with the story. I'd be happier going by the books/story. I don't care that Dumbledore is gay anymore than I care that Neville married Hannah Abbot: makes no difference to Harry's story. Not to me, anyway.

If she danced around it in the books, I don't see why she couldn't dance around it at the Q&A.

I'm fairly certain I've read several authors muse about the feeling that, after they've published their books, the stories aren't solely theirs anymore.

To me, the revelation is akin to a spoiler. Which is why all the headlines irritate me. Just because it's not in the book doesn't mean that revealing Dumbledore is gay or Neville marries Hannah is less a spoiler than revealing the fate of Harry (which, you'll notice, I'm not actually stating, for the people in this thread who haven't read Deathly Hallows). Because I respect readers' right to experience the books how they wish.

The way to fight Christian fundamentalists is not to cow to their ideals.

#49 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 04:31 PM:

Eleanor #46: I've long been frustrated by how socially conservative the wizarding world seemed.

I wasn't so much frustrated by that is intrigued, and disappointed that there wasn't more tensions between old-fashioned wizard-culture conservatism and modern liberalism. All we got was the horrible SPEW sub-plot with Hermione and the house elfs.

Nobody has children out of wedlock, not even Merope Gaunt/Riddle.

Could be that anti-conception magic is very common, easy, and effective. You might still get some teen pregnancy, since pre-grads aren't allowed to cast spells outside of schools, and muggle-borns won't have parents who can do it for them.

Or maybe there's anti-sex magic. I can see it now -- a couple of sixth-years sneak off to a quiet corner of the castle, strip off their ropes, and just as they're getting past the heavy petting stage, the door slams open. It's McGonagall, wand drawn. "Coitus Interruptus!" she shouts....

#50 ::: John Chu ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 04:32 PM:

#48:If she danced around it in the books, I don't see why she couldn't dance around it at the Q&A.

I don't think she danced around it in the books. Or, at least, I don't recall anyone in the books explicitly asking about Dumbledore's love life. Given the point of view used in the books, I'm not even sure how Rowling could have plausibly brought up Dumbledore's sexual orientation. Dumbledore was secretive about everything. When we finally do learn something about him, it's always from some source clearly tagged as non-authoritative in some way so we can't trust it completely.

What I don't understand is why the "Oh, she should have just been coy" response is coming now. JK Rowling has been dropping little bits of info like this ever since the release of book 7. So why didn't this response come when she revealed that Harry becomes the head of the Aurors, for example?

#51 ::: Will Entrekin ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 04:43 PM:

"Fb jul qvqa'g guvf erfcbafr pbzr jura fur erirnyrq gung Uneel orpbzrf gur urnq bs gur Nhebef, sbe rknzcyr?"

Npghnyyl, V unq gur fnzr erfcbafr gura.

Naq orfvqrf gung, vg'f n cerggl znwbe fcbvyre, vfa'g vg? V zrna, abgvat gung Uneel orpbzrf gur urnq bs gur Nhebef vaqvpngrf dhvgr vapbagebiregvoyl ur fheivirf Qrnguyl Unyybjf, ab?

(rot13ed)

#52 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 04:58 PM:

Since no one else has mentioned it, I wanted to thank Jim Macdonald for the title of this post. It has many resonances that I like, not least the fact that it's based on the title of a story by a writer who was not afraid to have gay and bi characters in his stories 30 years ago, whose orientation was completely irrelevant to the story, just a part of their characters.

#53 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 05:02 PM:

Will Entrekin @ 48: The way to fight Christian fundamentalists is not to cow to their ideals.

It's possible that fighting Christian fundamentalists is not currently one of JKR's priorities.

Re: 51, some non-encrypted indication of what the encrypted stuff is about would be helpful in deciding whether or not one should decrypt it. :-) ("Spoilers for Deathly Hallows", frex.)

#54 ::: Will Entrekin ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 05:19 PM:

Yeah, it's spoilers re: Deathly Hallows, so I encrypted it, like #50 should've done. In fact, I couldn't decide whether the rest of this post was spoilers, either, so I erred on the side of safety. It mentions the Rowling revelation I howled most over (which wasn't Dumbledore, actually).

Nyfb, V'q yvxr gb abgr gung jung V guvax zbfg obguref zr nobhg jung Ebjyvat'f orra "erirnyvat" yngryl vf gur "Puevfgvna nyyrtbel" fuvgr, juvpu, gb zr, vfa'g nyy gbtrgure Puevfgvna (orpnhfr nalbar jub xabjf gubfr fgbevrf xabj gurl rkvfgrq ybat orsber Wrfhf rire tbg uvf oybbql zvggf ba 'rz). N sevraq bs zvar bapr gbyq zr gung P.F. Yrjvf ehvarq uvf Puebavpyrf bs Aneavn sbe ure jura ur gnyxrq nobhg gur Puevfgvna nyyrtbevpny ryrzragf, orpnhfr vg erqhprf gur inyhr bs gur fgbel, nf vg znxrf vg zreryl gur irffry ol juvpu gur nhgubef qrpvqrq gb qryvire gurve zrffntr, engure guna ivpr-irefn.

#55 ::: R.M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 06:10 PM:

Will Entrekin #54:
Xabjvat gung gur nyyrtbel jnf gurer ghearq zr bss bs Aneavn orsber V ernq vg (jryy, xrcg zr sebz obgurevat gb trg bire zl yvggyr-xvq ungerq bs jung unccrarq gb Nfyna, naljnl). V'z tynq gur fhccbfrq UC nyyrtbel guvat qvqa'g pbzr bhg orsber abj, be V jbhyqa'g unir cnvq nggragvba gb gur obbxf. Nf vg vf, V'z tbvat gb or vtabevat gur cbffvovygl, uneq.

(Ha! This one is weird, because I'm saying I wouldn't have wanted to know one of the things Rowling is now saying if I hadn't read the books, but I'm not spoiling the books any more than Rowling already has.)

#56 ::: Jen Roth ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 06:17 PM:

Joel @45: I don't remember specifically. It was in the papers, so yeah, I assume it was Rita Skeeter either starting or passing along a rumor.

Spiegel @47: The way I see it, neither possibility is canon; canon is simply ambiguous on that point. (Unless of course it was addressed directly during S7, which I haven't seen in its entirety.)

#57 ::: John Chu ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 06:28 PM:

#51:I didn't intend to talking about you specifically. I haven't heard anyone say that she shouldn't answer questions about her books until now. But it's good to know that you took a stand about JK Rowling even at the point of her first revelation, and I merely didn't hear it.

As for your rot-13ed question, the answer is no. The head of the Aurors could be a picture on the wall, someone along the lines of Nearly Headless Nick, or a living flesh and blood wizard or witch. Any conclusion anyone might draw from his or her job is mere speculation.

Bs pbhefr, crbcyr jvyy qrevir rkgen vasbezngvba sebz lbh univat rapbqrq gur grkg naq erfcbafr.

V guvax vg bayl ybbxf yvxr n fcbvyre jura fbzrbar cbvagf gb vg naq gntf vg guhf.

#58 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 06:37 PM:

Jen Roth@34, Spiegel@47

The key point is that while (if one is limited to only things that aired before the scene in question) there are two possible ways of interpreting the scene in question, it was clearly indicated in later episodes of both Buffy and Angel which interpretation was correct. And the correct interpretation was the one consistent with Joss's statements.

#59 ::: R.M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 06:41 PM:

Responding to Will's question in #51:

Vg'f n xvq'f obbx - vg arire va n zvyyvba lrnef bppheerq gb zr gung Uneel zvtug qvr. Fcbvyvat zr gb gur snpg gung ur qbrfa'g vfa'g ernyyl cbffvoyr haqre gubfr pvephzfgnaprf.

#60 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 06:48 PM:

As to whether this should have been in the books, do kids in school really wonder about the sexual orientation of their teachers? I sure didn't. I might have fantasized about my French II teacher since she was a gorgeous 25-year-old blonde, but I didn't worry about whether she was gay or straight.

'Course, this was 1964, too. Presumably neither I nor too many of my fellow-students in Northern Virginia knew too much about homosexuality.

#61 ::: JKRichard ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 06:53 PM:

I caught this around 1 a.m or so this morning. It torqued me off and I guess I'm still quite agitated by it.
It's PR. Shameless PR IMHO.
If you're going to write a gay lead character, then write a gay lead character. Make it GREAT gay lead character and give the GBLT-Team something to celebrate.
Don't come out in some post-series forum and mention it as a "by the way" seeking additional sales from controversy.
If it wasn't intrinsically important enough to plot and character development while the series was unfolding why is it important enough to mention now? A: Sales.

#62 ::: Darkrose ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 07:17 PM:

Matthew Daly@35: And I call dibs on the revelation that Snape is Jewish.

Sorry, but fandom's been speculating about Jewish!Snape for years. Back in 2002, when I ran the Hogwarts Online RPG, Snape being Jewish was an important part of my backstory for him.

I don't mind that she didn't tell us Dumbledore was gay for two reasons:

1. The series is from Harry's POV. There would be no reason for him to think about DD's sexuality at all, so no reason for it to come up.

2. Everything after PoA was, IMO, at least a hundred pages too long. DD's sexuality would have been yet another extraneous subplot.

#63 ::: Kelly McCullough ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 07:18 PM:

I don't think sales is the driving force here. I don't think controversy is either. I think it was simply an author answering a question about a character in a finished series, a question that she wasn't willing to answer before the books were done and that didn't figure into the plot line in a way that made it germane to put into the books themselves. It's the sort of thing that writers do all the time, and the only reason it's news is because of the scale of Rowling's success.

#64 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 07:22 PM:

Linkmeister @ 60

Even then, even then. In 1963 and 1964, my last 2 years of high school, one of the English teachers, who was also my coach on the fencing team*, was gay, in a long-term live-in relationship, and not in the closet. It wasn't even a big item of gossip.

* Private school, the only real alternative for someone who planned to go to a good college, living in a primarily agricultural area.

#65 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 07:54 PM:

Bruce Cohen @ 64: Your high school may have been slightly unusual. My experience eavesdropping from the other side of the desk is that students will speculate endlessly about their teachers' sex lives . . . but in the end don't really believe that their teachers have lives outside of the classroom. I know I didn't, as a high school student. (Believe that my teachers had private lives, I mean. I knew they all left the building at the end of the day, but I wasn't entirely sure where they went--and I didn't especially care, either, though that may have been my own lack of curiosity speaking.)

One thing that many high school students flatly don't believe is that their teachers weren't always "old" (and may not even be that "old" now). I base this understanding on the discovery that most of my students during my first year of teaching were absolutely convinced that I was in my forties. The few who held out for a "younger" age thought I was maybe in my late thirties.

I was in my early twenties. For me, one of the more enjoyable bits if Deathly Hallows was when Harry & Co. were forced to face the idea of a Dumbledore who was the same age they were--that, I suspect, might actually have been a more difficult (and, in context, more relevant) concept than his sexual orientation.

#66 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 08:03 PM:

What's all this about Christian allegory?

I've read an article about how Rowling's Christian faith informed her writing of the books, but that's not allegory.

#67 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 08:26 PM:

Mary Frances @ 65

Yes, my high school was a little unusual*, but I suspect the reason that a gay teacher wasn't a big target of gossip was because the senior math teacher** was in the process of a messy divorce from another teacher at the school, involving allegations of him sleeping with a (female) student. Much juicer than some old gay guy who couldn't even be bothered to flounce around like a real queen, and was a good person to boot.†

Oh, yes, and our student body was atypical. I was a day student; we were mostly upper-middle class‡ kids living in a semi-rural area to get away from the noise and busyness of the city††. The boarding students, on the other hand, were often kids who weren't academic enough to get into one of the well-known prep schools‡‡ or who got into a lot of trouble and often bounced from school to school. The children of lesser celebrities or of messy upper-class divorces. They had lots of their own gossip to monger.

Funny thing: thinking back on it, I think I socialized with the teachers as much as I socialized with the other students; most of the friends I had who were my age lived in Philadelphia or New York. I'd go to visit them most weekends.

* We had an awful football team. I say that even though two of the players were at least sort of friends of mine.
** That is, the math teacher with the most seniority, who would have run the math department if there'd been one.
† Between the divorce and a serious ulcer, the math teacher was most emphatically not a nice guy. I think one of the hobbies he put in his CV was "Bites off the heads of students for fun". This was in the days before we called anyone outside the carnival a geek.
‡ In my family's case, just recently.
†† Frex, one student in my graduating class, who was a neighbor of mine, was French; his father had retired from Paris after making a name and a fortune for himself designing jet airliners, and preferred rural Pennsylvania to the southern Loire valley for reasons I never understood.
‡‡ The ones who always beat us at football.

#68 ::: Alma Alexander ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 08:31 PM:

Whatever you can say about Rowling as a writer, she's a damned GENIUS at marketing.

Just as the hoohah and the hullaballoo about The End Of Potter is dying down after that frantic summer that we had - here she comes, slyly lobbing another little explosive device into the mix.

I mean, this gives the Christian right MORE to kvetch and whine and complain about, as if they didn't have enough before with all the "oooooh look WITCHES" fingerpointing that was going on, and ensures that controversy and lively interest continues to surround the Potter franchise.

And lively interest sells books.

There you have it. Marketing coup.

I have no strong feelings about Dumbledore's gayness one way or another - I haven't read HP past book 3, anyway, so I have no clue what anyone is talking about half the time with all these "past relationships". But good GOD, ROwling's good.

#69 ::: Jen Roth ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 09:19 PM:

There's a problem with the argument that Dumbledore didn't need to be openly gay in the books because Harry would neither know nor care about his sexuality.

It's true that Harry is spectacularly uninterested in other people's love lives. Despite that, however, he manages to be aware of the opposite-sex spouses, partners, dates, crushes, and pin-up pictures of probably a hundred people over the course of the books. He even knows that Aberforth did something he shouldn't have with goats. He's oblivious, but he's not *that* oblivious. If there are no open same-sex relationships in the books, I don't think you can blame Harry's POV.

#70 ::: Jonathan Cohen ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 09:37 PM:

Snape Jewish! The person I always wondered about was Anthony Goldstein, whose name popped up in lists of young wizards whenever Rowling felt like showing that they were a diverse lot. He was such a cipher, living in name alone; I am curious whether any Jewish mysticism would have entered into his wizarding.

#71 ::: sara ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 10:08 PM:

I base this understanding on the discovery that most of my students during my first year of teaching were absolutely convinced that I was in my forties. The few who held out for a "younger" age thought I was maybe in my late thirties.

This reminds me of a Yale professor of Ancient Greek whom I had when I was 19. He was probably in his first or second year of teaching, and, going by LOC information on the copyright page of his books (which were published later), only 26 or so. I didn't pay any attention to the hierarchy of professors at that time; he was probably a lowly Visiting Assistant Professor. To me then, he was a Professor of Greek, and owned the entire Loeb Classical Library at his apartment. He was a young-looking little guy, when I look back, but the requirement that male Yale professors wear a suit coat and tie helped. I am now older than he was then.

We recall also that Rowling's Snape was (contrary to Rickman's age in the films) quite young, especially when he began teaching at Hogwarts; it helps explain, though doesn't excuse, his put-downs of the students. He had to establish his authority immediately, and did so in the harshest manner.

#72 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 10:15 PM:

Jen Roth @ 69: Dumbledore is a teacher. Teachers don't have sex.

Well, not at Hogwarts, anyways, nor any relationships of any kind, at least as far as textev goes.

#73 ::: Jen Roth ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 10:18 PM:

Teachers don't have crushes on your mother, either, but Harry knows about that one. :)

#74 ::: Jen Roth ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 10:26 PM:

Also, come to think of it, Hagrid was at least trying to get together with Madame Maxime, and travelled with her for a while talking to the giants. Whether or not anything came of it, he was clearly shown to be interested in the opposite sex.

Anyway, my argument is not so much about the fact that Dumbledore isn't openly gay, and is more about the fact that *nobody* is. Like I said, I don't think Harry's POV is solely to blame for that.

#75 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 10:36 PM:

The only manifestation of Dumbledore's sexuality that we've been told about is that as a young man, he fell in love with Grindelwald (whose degree of reciprocation remains mysterious). We have no idea what (or who) he may've been doing throughout his adult life since then, esp. in his world-weary old age; if his personal life was essentially celibate by the time the story opens, does Harry really have any way to know what sort of sexual partners Dumbledore happened to be abstaining from?

#76 ::: Margaret Organ-Kean ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 10:37 PM:

Bruce at #67

See you and raise. When I was in high school my driver's ed teacher was doing things that later earned him (posthumously) a starring role in an Ann Rule book (A Fever in the Heart).

Mind you, I was totally oblivious to all this, until my dad asked me Christmas morning why I'd shot my driver's ed teacher. (Although looking back, it makes some stuff I put down to weird adult stuff make sense.)

#77 ::: Juli Thompson ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 10:47 PM:

Margaret @76:

If you were oblivious to it all, why did you shoot him?

#78 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 10:59 PM:

Dumbledore was gay. So what?

It was irrelevant to Harry Potter's story. So it didn't need to be brought up in the story. I would note a great many of the instructors at Hogwarts do not come with any sort of sexual history attached to their backstory. Because their sexual orientation and history were irrelevant to Harry's story.

When she was a student, young McGonagall would transmutate into a cat and... oh... never mind. The point is that her sexual past is just as irrelevant as Dumbledore's.

As for those complaining that she mentioned it just to increase sales, then you should curse all the people who bought the books only after learning big D was gay. YOu know, the people who are thinking, "No, I don't like Harry Potter, Sam I am... It's been years in the making and I have no interest in buying any of the books... Oh wait, Dumbledore is gay? Give me the leather-bound* edition."

er, no.

*stop that thought right there.

#79 ::: Lili ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 11:02 PM:

My instinctive reaction was, 'No he isn't. He isn't straight, either. He's never shown having any kind of romantic or sexual relationship with either a man or a woman. If it's not in the books, it's not in the books.'

As AJ said, you can never include everything in a book. To me, that means that you include everything that's important - everything that you need the reader to see. If you leave something out because you don't consider it important enough to be included, that does NOT make the book incomplete. The book is complete, and if it isn't, you should've taken that up with your editor. Going back later and saying, 'Oh, by the way, this character is gay and that one hated her brother all through their childhood and...' - that implies that the book isn't complete in itself. To me, there's something deeply offensive about that. It belittles the book - it belittles books in general.

I'm trying to work out why I feel so passionately about this - about the wholeness and sacredness of the text. Partly it may be because, back in college, I developed an allergy to the kind of argument that begins 'Just because there's no Marxism in Green Eggs and Ham doesn't mean it's not a Marxist text,' and four hours later you're still sitting in the student cafe arguing and every other word is 'post-post-structuralism' and AAAIIIEEEEE. To me, this is the same thing: claiming that what's actually in the book is less relevant than what people say about the book. Even in college, this made me want to whap my forehead off the formica cafe tables.

And partly it's because I've been getting a lot of reader e-mails asking me to answer a specific question about my first book. While I can see exactly why some readers would want this question answered, I'm never, ever going to answer it outside the confines of book covers - because the book is the book. If that answer were an organic part of it, it would be in the book. Since it's not an organic part of the book, it doesn't belong in the reading process at all.

I'm not sure if I'm making sense - it's late here...

#80 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 11:11 PM:

Bruce Cohen @ 67: I think I'm going to have to erase the "slightly" in my original comment. Wow. Sounds like a good place to go to school, though, all things considered. Was it?

Joel Polowin @ 72: Yes, pretty much--"teachers don't have sex" about describes the attitude of many (not all, obviously) high school students, so far as I can tell. Even if the teachers in question are married and have children, in some cases. The thing is, I think that most students do notice marriages and otherwise permanent relationships; they just don't necessarily pay much attention, even then. If Rowling were now claiming that Dumbledore had had a current lover in the books and Harry just hadn't noticed, I'd be shaking my head and going "huh?" too. But a long-ago tragic love affair that not many people knew about even at the time, leading to (apparently) a lifetime of celibacy? I can believe that that didn't appear on student radar, all right.

Jen Roth @ 73: About Harry's mother . . . you know, I think that sort of fits, really. Harry almost has to be hit over the head with it before he notices that particular "past" relationship; up until that point, he's more or less viewed events in terms of his father, not his mother. Or am I remembering wrongly?

Anyway, I'm not really disagreeing with people who argue that Rowling is trying to have it both ways, so to speak--it just doesn't strike me as false to the milieu she was writing in that Dumbledore's sexual orientation wasn't an explicit topic of conversation in it.

Alma Alexander @ 68: With you all the way, on that one . . .

#81 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 11:24 PM:

Bruce Cohen @52: By the way, I've been meaning to ask--what short story (and by whom) does the title of this post remind you of? Because I think it's a great title, too, only I flashed back to Whitman when I read it. If there's a good story out there with the same, or almost the same, title, that I have somehow managed to miss . . .

#82 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 11:26 PM:

Lili@79: that implies that the book isn't complete in itself. To me, there's something deeply offensive about that. It belittles the book - it belittles books in general.

No book is ever "complete" if by "complete" you mean it includes ever fact no matter how irrelevant it might be the protagonist's point of view and the story being told.

And saying that all books are incomplete doesn't belittle any of them. It is a truth universally acknowledged that a story is little more than a series of markers or signposts from the author with the reader filling in most of the details in between.

#83 ::: Lili ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 11:38 PM:

Greg on 82: No book is ever "complete" if by "complete" you mean it includes ever fact no matter how irrelevant it might be the protagonist's point of view and the story being told.

No, that's not what I mean by 'complete' at all! (I told you it was late here...) On the contrary: my point was precisely that a book doesn't have to include every detail in order to be complete. The book is by definition complete; any detail that isn't included is extraneous.

I'm going to bed...

#84 ::: Jen Roth ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 11:47 PM:

See, I just think it's kind of a big coincidence that the only gay character happens to be a teacher who has been celibate for decades, and therefore has built-in excuses for his orientation not becoming known to the POV character. Again, out of all those hundred or so people whose love lives we know about.

I also can't help thinking that if Grindelwald had been a woman, and Dumbledore had been spending all that intense time with her in their youth, the possibility that he was in love with her would probably have come up in his biography, and would have thus come to Harry's attention. Granted, that's supposition and not proof of anything.

#85 ::: Margaret Organ-Kean ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2007, 11:54 PM:

Juli @ #77

Because I purely loathed driver's ed and I was flunking it -

So you can really wonder about me, I'll mention my response, which was, "Which one?"


(For the people who believe everything they read (I don't think there are any here) this was a joke answer - I didn't shoot my driver's ed teacher.)

#86 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2007, 12:37 AM:

Jen Roth @ 84: Oh, I think you're probably right--and I hadn't really thought about it, but you've also got a good point about the possibility of the Grindelwald/Dumbledore affair being in Dumbledore's biography, if Grindelwald had been female. Actually, I was kind of surprised even when I read that bit that Rita Skeeter didn't think of at least speculating on a possible Dumbledore/Grindelwald affair--I suppose because it was enough of a "shock" that Dumbledore had even met Young Grindelwald, let alone been friends with him, maybe? But I'd have expected a bit of titillation on her part anyway, whatever the wizarding world's general attitude towards same-gender relationships might be.

In other words, I imagine that Rowling walked a very fine and careful line, indeed. Personally, I don't entirely blame her, all things considered, but it was apparently her choice and no one else's, so she gets whatever kudos or condemnation is going for it. However, and giving her the credit of assuming that she thought of the character as gay and needed to know that about him in order to write him--that's a large assumption, I know--I do think it's . . . pleasant? something relatively positive . . . refreshing, perhaps? . . . that she answered a question about Dumbledore's love life honestly. Brilliant marketing ploy or not. So long as she'd decided to answer any "outside the books" questions at all, that is.

Now, whether or not she should be answering "outside the books" questions, or why she has chosen to do so, is a whole 'nother set of issues.

And some of those sentences are getting completely out of control, so I think maybe I'd better get some sleep, too . . .

#87 ::: Will Entrekin ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2007, 01:15 AM:

Lili said "And partly it's because I've been getting a lot of reader e-mails asking me to answer a specific question about my first book. While I can see exactly why some readers would want this question answered, I'm never, ever going to answer it outside the confines of book covers - because the book is the book. If that answer were an organic part of it, it would be in the book. Since it's not an organic part of the book, it doesn't belong in the reading process at all."

I think she just said everything I was saying more succinctly (not to mention: better) than I did.

I'll note that, for Book 7, I ordered a copy of the British adult hardcover, which to me just looked shinier, than the American version. The overseas shipping took an extra four days, and so I actually avoided everything for a solid week. No television, no Internet, nothing where I could read anything about any aspect of the book. All of which I say to note that I guess I'm a little sensitive about spoilers, and the avoidance thereof.

On another note: When I was in sixth grade, my classmates and I speculated about the sexuality of one of our teachers. He was the first male we had ever encountered in the education system to that point (partly due to my attending a Catholic school. The teachers weren't nuns, but the principal was).

I'm rot13ing the rest of this post, part of which is a response to Avram, the rest to John Chu:

Nienz, gung jnf cerpvfryl gur cntr ObbxAvawn yvaxrq gb haqre vgf cbfg urnqyvarq "Wrfhf Cbggre." Fb V jnf ernyyl whfg tbvat ol gurve qrfpevcgvba bs vg.

Naq Wbua, qbrfa'g fnlvat gung Uneel jrag ba gb orpbzr na Nhebe arprffnevyl vzcyl gung ur fheivirq gur riragf bs Obbx 7?

#88 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2007, 01:23 AM:

Will, I read that article, and I think a whole lot of people don't know what an allegory is.

#89 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2007, 01:39 AM:

Margaret Organ-Kean @ 76

Remind me not to get you mad ...

Mary Frances @ 80

It was a good school. The classes were small; there were 33 students, including myself, in my graduating class. The teachers were mostly pretty good, some of them pretty great*, and at least 4 of them left me with interests and skills that I still follow. I had hoped to go back there for my 40th class reunion a few years ago, but the weddings of my niece and my son left me with insufficient time and money to do so. Maybe the 50th.

Mary Frances @ 81

The story is "Out of the Cradle, Endlessly Orbiting", by Sir Arthur Clarke†, published in 1959 IIRC. It's not long, and somewhat a minor work, compared to stories such as "The Songs of Distant Earth" or "A Meeting with Medusa"††, but I love the title.

* One of the saddest things I've had to do is hear about the deaths of several of them in the last few years. I just can't think of them as getting older; they're fixed in my mind as they were then. The one who died about 6 or 7 years ago, who was the person who really turned me on to film** was even a distant relative by marriage.
** I planned to be a film maker for some years. It didn't happen for a lot of reasons, but it's still something I love.
† He's one of the few recipient's of that honor that I can think of who really earned it and deserves it. Elton John? Well, maybe. Though I think they gave it to him to appease Diana's ghost.
†† Which was published in 1971, but by a roundabout chain of reasoning was the inspiration for a paper I wrote for a workshop on distributed systems in 2000.

#90 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2007, 08:46 AM:

This comment would have been much longer, but Jen Roth beat me to it all, for which I thank her.

So: what Jen Roth said, absolutely.

Or, put another way: no-one ever has to justify talking about/knowing an opposite-sex partner/involvement/interest.

#91 ::: John Chu ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2007, 09:36 AM:

#87: Wil, how does my response in #57 not answer your question such that you need to ask it again?

#84,86: I agree that, ultimately, it's a bit convenient that JK Rowling created a world where Dumbledore is perhaps the only gay wizard ever. (I don't know if Grindelwald ever requited Dumbledore's love.) Maybe the rationalization is that this is a world where all the gay wizards and witches are so closeted that Harry never sees them. That doesn't seem very satisfying though. I wonder if maybe she didn't realize this about him until she saw the script to the movie version of book 6.

Someone, somewhere, also mentioned that this could still make it into the canon via the upcoming movies. (I haven't seen any of them after the first one. I'm just assuming that they maintain continuity with the books.)

#92 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2007, 10:41 AM:

For me,it seems that the whole Dumbledore thing would be irrelevant TO HARRY. One of the things I found most interesting about the books was how much like a regular teenager, male variety, Harry was, in spite of all his power and responsibility and fate and everything else. Harry spends at least one book being an utter silly git, at about the same time that most teenagers turn into silly gits. He sees his mother only through the spectrum of her sacrifice, and his father as an ideal heroic adult; Sirius is the link to his parents, and another heroic figure. His views of the adults around him fits his internal narrative,until he is forced to truly understand in order to survive, and for Harry, growing up means understanding the flaws and human-ness of those he idealized.

To me, it was always a growing up story and how, if you are lucky, you change from the self-absorption of immaturity to the full responsibility of adulthood. Harry just needs to grow up faster, because someone very nasty is coming to kill him; but that doesn't mean he gets to skip the steps. IHMO, a very realistic view of the matter.

#93 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2007, 12:43 PM:

Bruce Cohen @89: Thanks! I had missed that story of Clarke's, somehow--I'll look for it.

#94 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2007, 12:44 PM:

About "completeness" and authorial intent, in general:

Maybe this is why I have written so little, as opposed to how much I've worked on, but every piece of fiction I've written has been a garment made from a much larger whole cloth: there is character back-story, especially, that is not "story" but is necessary for me to know for the story to exist. Whether it is wise for an author to show the public the scraps left after the story is cut out is another question.

#95 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2007, 01:30 PM:

If you're going to write a gay lead character, then write a gay lead character. Make it GREAT gay lead character and give the GBLT-Team something to celebrate.

Why? Why not just make the character GSW (gay -- so what?). At this point, \either/ extreme is likely to weaken the story, IMO.

Sara@71: That was how old Snape was when he started teaching. When Harry entered Hogwards, Snape would have been at least 31 (age at graduation, plus 12 years to get Harry to age 11) and probably older -- I forget any text clues about how old James and Lily were when the Voldemort mess happened. That's somewhere in the indistinct middle, depending on how the individual approaches life; Snape is permanently bitter, which IMO makes him look/behave crotchety/old. Rickman didn't use any of the usual markers for age -- no grey in his hair, moved very fast when he had to -- but conveys some of what it's like not to have been young.

#96 ::: Margaret Organ-Kean ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2007, 04:10 PM:

James and Lily died Halloween, 1981 and both were born in 1960.

Harry was at least a year old when they died. (both pieces from Book VII), which means he might have been born in 1980 or 1979 (less probable).

Since he was 18 when the events in Book VII took place, that would mean Snape was 37-38 when he died, with 39 or 36 as lesser probabilities. Book VII took place in 1997 or 1998.

Snape would have been about 30 when he met Harry.


#97 ::: Brenda Kalt ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2007, 04:20 PM:

Will #24: The past few days, I've just wished Rowling would stop talking.

There is that aspect.

Regarding archetypes of heroic SF/F, the wise old mentor never has a visible sex life, does he? Did Obi-Wan Kenobe?

Regarding social commentary, social conservatism in the wizarding world, etc.: Dumbledore was born in 1881. His attitudes toward sex and sexuality were formed in the last decades of the 19th century. Gay or straight, people of that era were mostly reticent about their sexuality.

#98 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2007, 06:39 PM:

Regarding archetypes of heroic SF/F, the wise old mentor never has a visible sex life, does he?

I suppose that the couplings in late-period Heinlein are not heroic.

#99 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2007, 06:48 PM:

Archetypes and sex: Yoda.

I cringe at the thought.

#100 ::: Neil ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2007, 06:49 PM:

Puts a rather different spin on the whole using Dumbledore's wand malarky...

#101 ::: vito excalibur ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2007, 06:50 PM:

I suppose that the couplings in late-period Heinlein are not heroic.

Truer words...

#102 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2007, 07:51 PM:

Snogging -- feh! Nookie -- feh! A Jedi craves not these things.

I found one item in the Deathly Hallows text referring negatively to the relationship between Harry and Dumbledore. It's part of an interview with Rita Skeeter about her forthcoming biography of Dumbledore, in Chapter 2. "'I devote an entire chapter to the whole Potter-Dumbledore relationship. It's been called unhealthy, even sinister. Again, your readers will have to buy my book for the whole story, but there is no question that Dumbledore took an unnatural interest in Potter from the word go. Whether that was really in the boy's best interests – well, we'll see. It's certainly an open secret that Potter has had a most troubled adolescence.'" I don't think we ever saw any text from that chapter of the biography.

#103 ::: totally not Lila at all ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2007, 08:13 PM:

Linkmeister @ #99:

mumblemumble google 'yoda estrogen brigade' mumble

What? Who? Me?? Never heard of it...

#104 ::: Spiegel ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2007, 08:42 PM:

Lili @79: To me, this is the same thing: claiming that what's actually in the book is less relevant than what people say about the book.

I wouldn't go so far as to claim that the book is less relevant, but I do think that hearing what people (author included) say about the book can be interesting. It doesn't necessarily affect or replace how I view the book; it's a different kind of enjoyment. So I don't have a problem with Rowling making these statements, except that knowing the characters' jobs 20 years from now isn't what I'd call interesting (although I imagine it pleases the younger audience).

A datapoint on students wondering about teachers' sex lives: when I was 16, one of my classes took a nose-dive in quality and I remember wondering if the teacher wasn't getting any. I'd have guessed he was in his 30's, but he was probably younger. Then there was the time (same year, iirc) when we found a picture of a porn star who looked exactly like one very serious, former seminarist teacher.

#105 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2007, 08:54 PM:

totally not Lila at all @ 103

No fair! How can I breathe when I'm laughing so hard?

Uhat yvxr n Uhgg, V nz. ahhahhahahahah!

naq gurer'f n Eltry KIV Rfgebtra Oevtnqr, gbb!

#106 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2007, 10:49 PM:

Brenda @97: Regarding archetypes of heroic SF/F, the wise old mentor never has a visible sex life, does he? Did Obi-Wan Kenobe?

The Sith Academy someone has not read, hmmm? (Although that aspect isn't a major factor throughout the early portions, e.g. Darth Maul Earns His Master's Degree.)

#107 ::: deCadmus ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2007, 12:41 AM:

Yeah! to Emma @ 92.

I think it would have been quite the challenge to introduce Dumbldore's sexual preference into the storyline.

We are looking at this world through Harry's eyes. Harry spends much of his time idolizing Dumbledore, and, on occasion, demonizing him. Harry is also a naive boy struggling with his own adolescence; the emotional and romantic needs of others are almost entirely beyond him.

Frankly we really don't get a deep background on Dumbledore, himself, until DH, and then we get more than enough material to chew on; in particular the revelation that Albus had made at least one terrible error in his past which he carried with him every day. Indeed, in light of that particular revelation it might have proved a *bad* time to introduce Dumbledore's orientation; it might well be construed by some as a ding on gay folk.

More to the point of this argument --and as Greg @ 78 notes -- an in-story revelation would be largely irrelevant. Dumbledore's sexual orientation would be meaningful to the story only to the extent that Dumbledore were presented as a sexual being... or even a person with a romantic interest. Should Jo want very much to make such a reference in story, it would be terribly difficult to justify unless it would *forward* the story. And I suspect that if it *were* revealed in-story, then it would in many ways subsume other critical storylines.

It's not as though Jo never touched on how the Wizarding world dealt with people who were "different". That Lupin was ostracized for being a werewolf is telling: Wizards were revealed to be every bit as capable as Muggles of being insufferable gits in their interaction with folks of a different stripe. If I understand correctly, it was just this sort of in story dialog about acceptance and dealing with differences that inspired the Q&A we're all talking about.

Neat, that.

#108 ::: rm ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2007, 01:24 AM:

And to think people were giggling over this line from Rita Skeeter:

After they've read my book, people may be forced to conclude that Grindelwald simply conjured a white handkerchief from the end of his wand and came quietly.

Not so funny now, is it?

#109 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2007, 01:42 AM:

Bruce Cohen @ 44: "Doesn't it seem reasonable that an author should have the final say on their own relationship to the text and its contents?"

Absolutely. An author has just as much of a right to determine their relationship with their work as any reader does.

Lili @ 79: "Going back later and saying, 'Oh, by the way, this character is gay and that one hated her brother all through their childhood and...' - that implies that the book isn't complete in itself. To me, there's something deeply offensive about that. It belittles the book - it belittles books in general."

This seems a little weird to me. Fan-fiction exists primarily to fulfill the desires of those who think the books they read and the shows they watch aren't enough--do you think that they are wrong to think so? Does it "belittle" Star Trek that it's given birth to hundreds of thousands of complementary stories, that people spectulate endlessly about the exact technical specifications of the Enterprise?

For the author to answer those questions, to write those other stories, is a different answer than fans writing them, but I don't think it's a worse one. They crafted these addictive stories in the first place, who better than them to do it a second time?

Great stories don't leave people easily. They linger. They hang around in the back of the mind, whispering "What about..." and "What if..." They leave the reader wanting more--more story. Maybe more of that story, maybe an entirely different one. Maybe one of the reader's own. Wanting to know more than is in the book isn't an insult. It's a compliment.

#110 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2007, 01:43 AM:

Julie L. @ 106

This seems to be a night for revelations in the Star Wars Universe. Or at the fringes of the Star Wars Universe. Or the tassles on the nipple caps of the Star Wars Universe, perhaps.

No question, there's a whole world, no, a whole solar system of things George Lucas forget (maybe very conveniently) to mention.

#111 ::: Nic ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2007, 08:56 AM:

I have to side with those who see this as Rowling trying to have her diversity cake and eat it. This way she gets to give the fanfic-ers one last squee and look a lot more liberal than her created world would suggest - while avoiding alienating her more squeamish/bigoted readers (who can if necessary play the denial game, since Dumbledore's sexuality is entirely extra-textual). Those for whom even denial is not enough probably wouldn't have been buying the book in the first place, so no danger of scaring them off. I doubt very much that *anything* could have hurt the sales of the final Harry Potter book.

If it's not there in the books, it has all the appearance of an empty gesture. Once again, a gay character is visible only between the subtextual lines. To say nothing of this being yet another example of a gay character whose sexuality is the wellspring of his unhappiness...

#112 ::: Nic ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2007, 09:04 AM:

(Sorry for double post; forgot to say:)

FWIW, yes, at my school there was long-running speculation over the sexuality of two teachers. I think in both cases the speculation arose partly *because* neither of them had a visible long-term (straight) attachment.

And I reckon many girls at my school would have found the idea of a tragic secret love affair quite appealing/romantic, whether gay or straight. ;-)

#113 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2007, 09:26 AM:

rm @ 108: Not so funny now, is it?

It does reopen a plot hole (or unexplained plot point, at least) that I noticed when I first read the book: Ubj jnf vg gung Qhzoyrqber qrsrngrq Tevaqyrjnyq va pbzong, jura Tevaqyrjnyq jnf hfvat gur Ryqre Jnaq?

#114 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2007, 09:33 AM:

Nic@111: a gay character whose sexuality is the wellspring of his unhappiness

The unhappiness mentioned was a thing called unrequited love, not being gay.

Once again, a gay character is visible only between the subtextual lines.

If D being gay is irrelevant to Harry's story, then putting "D is gay" in the story simply because he is gay is not only bad writing, but turning a children's book into a soapbox for political issues.

I'm plotting out a story that has a character on the good guys side who is gay. And if it turns out to be irrelevant, it won't get mentioned in the story*. which might raise the ire of some folks here, because I'm getting the impression of some unstated rule that goes like this:

The sexual orientation of all good gay characters must be revealed in the story, no matter how irrelevant to the story, or not revealed at all.

Which is weird considering that Star Wars encyclopedias and stuff like that is fairly accepted by readers. I haven't bought a SW encyclopedia, but I don't get angry at the sight of one either. But if said encyclopedia mentioned that Wedge was gay, then a number of people will get upset that Wedge's homosexuality wasn't mentioned in the movie.

Wedge's sexual orientation is about as relevant to Luke's story as Dumbldore's orientation is to Harry's story.

(*) To those wondering why I would bother penciling out the fact that a character is gay without putting that fact into the story: I currently am building D&D like character sheets for all the interesting characters in the story. It helps me get a handle on their personalities. And it helps me write. Think of it as a plastic ham hidden deep inside a plastic model of a submarine where no one will see it, but the guy who made the model knows its there.

#115 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2007, 09:52 AM:

Greg London @ 114, I'm with you all the way on this one.

I really like that Rowling planned more to the Potterverse and the Potter characters than we know about. It adds richness to the characters and the story to have some things that aren't fully explained in the text, but that clearly have some reasoning behind them. Makes it more fun to read and more fun to talk about.

All of this "How dare she reveal that she'd planned more backstory than she ended up writing into the books?" is starting to grate on my nerves, quite frankly.

#116 ::: vito excalibur ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2007, 10:29 AM:

Greg London @ 114:

The rule you're actually thinking of goes more like, "A character must not be revealed as gay unless there is a reason to reveal him as gay." Which gets right up some of our noses, because there is no corresponding rule of "A character must not be revealed as straight unless there is a reason to reveal him as straight." Ms. Rowling can casually mention the girlie pics up on Sirius Black's walls and nobody wants to know why she's shoving heterosexuality into a children's book where it doesn't fit. Well, except for the slashers, but that's a different issue.

Now looking at the characters in the book who do have canon sexualities, I would be inclined to give this situation a pass, because the teachers, as lots of people have pointed out, do not have sexualities visible to the students.

Except for one thing: Dumbledore's affair with Grindelwald is hella relevant to the story! Can you honestly say that if it had been dashing blond Gerda Grindelwald seducing D. to the dark side of the Force, Rita Skeeter would have been confining herself to writing about their late night owls? It's not like Ms. Rowling would be shoehorning it into the story with "Call him Voldemort, Harry. Always use the proper name for things. Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself. That's why I like to make sure everyone knows I'm gayer than Christmas."

#117 ::: paul ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2007, 10:43 AM:
I also object to the notion that Rowling is "the only one who would know for sure". The text is the text.

Then we differ. The view that "the author is just another reader" is one that leads down the path to subtext hunting and similar insanity.

Does this mean all of Edgar Rice Burroughs characters were straight?

#118 ::: rm ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2007, 10:51 AM:

Uh . . . help out a lazy lurker here. Is there an easy (like, automated) way to decode ROT13?

ABCDEFGHIJKLM
NOPQRSTUVWXYZ

Because I really don't want to spend time with the above chart.

#119 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2007, 10:59 AM:

RM @ 118:

You can copy and paste the text here: http://www.rot13.com/index.php to encode and decode ROT 13

#120 ::: rm ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2007, 11:01 AM:

Oh, okay . . . Joel Polowin, I think the explanation for that plot point is that a certain student's weird father is not a reliable source of information. The craftsman who knows a lot about that particular subject confirms that you can't take the reputation of that thing too literally. It would be like saying the Red Sox with Daisuke pitching are unbeatable. There was the possibility of the Indians beating them, but it wasn't likely to happen. But if the Indians had had Dumbledore in the dugout they might have done it.

I think Rita Skeeter's suggestion at that point is actually meant to be false, and an analogy to Holocaust denial . . . suggesting that well-known historical events didn't really happen.

#121 ::: rm ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2007, 11:02 AM:

Thanks, Ursula.

#122 ::: Marc Moskowitz ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2007, 11:16 AM:

It's not (at least for me) "how dare she have plans and opinions beyond the scope of the book" but "her plans and opinions, being extratextual, are not imbued with special authority". One can accept them as canon if one chooses, but that's one's own decision.

#123 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2007, 12:03 PM:

#120: Uh, the way the Sox were playing last night, not even Dumbledore would have helped the Indians.

#124 ::: K.C.Shaw ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2007, 12:05 PM:

Marc @ #122: So the person who invented the world and characters, who wrote the "canon" literature, and who is the person being, you know, paid for doing all this work--that person is not actually an authority on the work in question? I find this silly to the point of surreality.

#125 ::: anatidaeling ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2007, 12:21 PM:

Of course the author is an authority on the books she writes, but we, the readers, don't have to accept that authority.

Or, rather, her authority only goes so far. Experiencing a book is a 50-50 partnership. The author brings half, and the reader brings half.

The elements of the book mean different things to different people.

For example, I always thought Voldemort was supposed to sort of represent Hitler. Maybe that's not what J.K. Rowling meant, but that's my experience of the story.

#126 ::: Will Entrekin ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2007, 12:54 PM:

Isn't the existence of English literature programs evidence that many people acknowledge that the author is not necessarily the only person with authority? I'm sure many writers probably scoff at the Marxist/feminist/Freudian readings/interpretations performed by students working on their dissertations and professors writing for literary journals, but that doesn't stop people from giving those interpretations credence.

Shakespeare is not the only authority on Macbeth, is he?

Now, whether or not those interpretations are actually credible, or just a lot of hogwash, is another issue entirely.

#127 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2007, 01:20 PM:

I believe, with Will and Anatidaeling, that the author/reader partnership is 50/50. What I really object to is the idea that the author SHOULD HAVE WRITTEN the book I want to read. Beating up on her for not having done exactly what you wanted with her characters seems somehow impolite.

I still think that this is Harry's story, seen through Harry's eyes, and that's all the information we need to get. IMO, to enjoy a book, you step into the character's shoes.

#128 ::: Betsey Langan ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2007, 01:38 PM:

RM @118: If you're running Firefox, you can also install the LEETkey extension. It has a whole bunch of text transformers, including ROT-13, built in. (As you read, you can highlight text, right-click, and select ROT13 transformation from the LEETkey branch of your context menu. Very nice! And it stays translated until you navigate away from the page and come back.)

#129 ::: Jen Roth ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2007, 01:41 PM:

rm:

Another thing you can do, if you're using Firefox, is to install the LeetKey extension. Then you can select the text and ROT13 it by right-clicking.

#130 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2007, 02:47 PM:

I'd have to go back and reread Deathly Hallows again to see if it's clearer, but it seems to me that the author's own backstory Dumbledore is a reasonable interpretation of the text, but not the only reasonable interpretation.

It's of course now more relevant if you consider author's backstory to be authoritative, but not everyone does. Lots of people don't even consider author's published *sequels* to be authoritative in some cases if they're too dissatisfied with them. Poll fans of Highlander how many movies there were, for instance; you're likely to get answers inconsistent with each other or with IMDB.

My recollection of my reading of the Dumbledore/Grindelwald relationship is that it was an example of the infatuation/crush that adolescents often get towards certain mentors or peers that have qualities they admire. The infatuation usually goes away as the adolescent matures and realizes that the person isn't the idealized figure that they initially perceived. (If this realization is gradual, the crush may dissipate; if it's abrupt, it may explode, as in Rowling's story.)

Based on what I've experienced and heard, this sort of infatuation isn't that uncommon, particularly among adolescents who may still be shy or slow about establishing relationships with the wider world. It can have sexual elements or overtones to it, but they're not always present or overt, and they don't necessarily carry over to one's adult sexual orientation.

I suspect it's not written about very much, relative to how often it happens, because the experience can be rather confusing during and after the fact, and can seem embarrassing or disturbing in retrospect as well. But there have been some good depictions of it in story and song. See, for instance, the Nields song "Gotta Get Over Greta" from the album of the same name.

#131 ::: Marc Moskowitz ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2007, 02:55 PM:

K.C. @124:
I agree that it's counterintuitive. But the reverse implies that your reading of a book can be invalidated 20 years later. It also makes it impossible to do scholarship on any work of art until the author is dead and every scrap of their papers has been published. You have to have textual independence if you want to write your dissertation on the work of Jane Brilliantartist without being afraid that she'll make your work incorrect in the middle of your tenure review. (I'm not an academic, this is purely a hypothetical circumstance.) Discussing art is a scholarly exercise, not a psychoanalytical or telepathic one.

#132 ::: Kaleb Nation ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2007, 03:13 PM:

Publicity. Nobody knew she was in America until all the headlines had this all weekend, and now everybody knows exactly what's she's doing. Genius, I must admit.

#133 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2007, 03:15 PM:

re #130: That is much the same reading that I had, and I would note also that Harry's relationship with Dumbledore starts out on something of the same foot (though it suffers greatly in book 5). The revelation seems at best unnecessary, and maybe somewhat contrary to the books.

#134 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2007, 03:50 PM:

I don't know how much of a bearing Dumbledore's sexuality had on anything wrt the story. I mean, the guy was what, a 120 years old? Sexual orientation seems more pertinent when there's something to be active with.

#135 ::: Constance Ash ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2007, 06:24 PM:

I still haven't read Deathly Hallows, which has by sheer coincidence come into my hands today. I read the wire story about Rowling outing Dumbledore Friday night, and thought it particularly a cool thing, coming as it did the day after her wonderfully full and generous reading, signing and answering questions for the New Orleans's kids.

NO, adults as well as children and YAs, is pretty Potter mad, and was long before the levees broke. There was a special Potter fest in the Quarter last fall, that brought thousands and thousands of people, particularly in the age group that was about 9 or 11 when the first Potter came out. Rowling, by all accounts, was truly charmed by this festival, which included large numbers of gay and transgendered youth - young adults.

It was extensively reported on -- but maybe only in the NO media? I had forgotten about it until this weekend.

She certainly has known all along about Dumbledore. An author doesn't create a world this dense and so densely populated without having extensive backstories for all of them, even the most minor. You just can't have all that info overtly in the book(s) -- which could have benefited by judicious editing as it was, though that would have slowed down the production of each volume considerably. (It takes a long time to write concisely.) However, though the info is not overtly in the text, I swear it gets in somehow for inference anyway, which it clearly had done with Dumbledore and the Potter fans.

Love, C.

#136 ::: Spiegel ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2007, 07:00 PM:

Nic @11: while avoiding alienating her more squeamish/bigoted readers (who can if necessary play the denial game, since Dumbledore's sexuality is entirely extra-textual).

I wish. I'm on an HP mailing list and those readers are whining that JKR has alienated them. I think it's more likely that she doesn't care what they think (whether she expected to gain something from the revelation, I don't know).

vito excalibur @116: Can you honestly say that if it had been dashing blond Gerda Grindelwald seducing D. to the dark side of the Force, Rita Skeeter would have been confining herself to writing about their late night owls?

It's true, there might've been better ways to handle it in the text (or it could have been the same mess that was Lupin/Tonks). On the other hand, if it had been Gerda, there would be no need to drop more hints via Rita Skeeter, because people would think it blindingly obvious that Dumbledore was in love with Gerda.

#137 ::: Sean O'Hara ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2007, 07:54 PM:

A textual clue that Dumbledore was gay: his favorite candies are sherbet lemons ("lemon drops" in the American translation).

#138 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2007, 08:24 PM:

What's all this about Christian allegory?

I've read an article about how Rowling's Christian faith informed her writing of the books, but that's not allegory.

I kinda thought that Dumbledore chuckling about how appropriate it was that Harry (who sacrificed his life for his fellows out of love and thereby delivered them from evil and conquered death) saw himself as being at King's Cross Station was a little explicit.

#140 ::: Julia Sullivan ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2007, 09:03 PM:

I think that Dumbledore's unrequited love for Grindelwald is in the text. I seriously don't know anyone who didn't reach that conclusion after reading Deathly Hallows.

Now, I hadn't wondered about whether Dumbledore was gay or bisexual or bicurious or whatever--he could have been a Lytton Strachey or a John Maynard Keynes, either way, on the basis of the text.

But the romantic love was absolutely implied in the text. Especially in the text "written by Elphias Doge".

#141 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2007, 09:07 PM:

Why doesn’t learning “Dumbledore is gay” upset me? by John Granger, a prominent EO supporter and analyst of the books. It also provides more context about the press conference.

#142 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2007, 09:46 PM:

Will@139,

next time he should call Robert Ludlum

#143 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2007, 10:21 PM:

Marc Moskowitz @ 131: "I agree that it's counterintuitive. But the reverse implies that your reading of a book can be invalidated 20 years later."

Who said it has to be one or the other? There's a whole world of difference between arguing that the author is an authority and arguing that the author is the authority.

Ray Bradbury is on the record saying diametrically opposed things about the allegorical nature of Fahrenheit 451. If you were writing academically about the subject, you'd be utterly barmy to treat his extra-textual speech as definitive. Yet you'd be equally barmy to ignore it altogether.

Look, there are plenty of people who think the Lupin/Tonks relationship is total crap. It's in the text, yet they feel perfectly comfortable deciding that that chunk of text is less authentic, less canon, than other parts. The author can say what they want about their books, and it matters in exactly the same way as anything in the book matters: if it appeals enough to you to find a place in your imagination.

I watch Doctor Who, and there are entire episodes *coughcoughseriestwoepisodeonecough* that don't exist, as far as I'm concerned. If one of the writers came out and said something that struck me as profoundly stupid, I'd toss it out just like I've tossed out irritating parts of the canon. If a writer came out and said something neat, I'd incorporate into my canon just the same as I've incorporated "Blink."

#144 ::: Steve Downey ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2007, 10:40 PM:

rm @ 118 - If you're using Firefox, there's a plugin called LeetKey that does rot13 encoding/decoding *. Install from http://leetkey.mozdev.org/installation.html


* Bs pbhefr vg qbrf obgu, fvapr gur jubyr cbvag bs ebg13 vf gung gur fnzr ebhgvar ra-/qr- pbqrf.

#145 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2007, 10:41 PM:

anatidaeling #125: For example, I always thought Voldemort was supposed to sort of represent Hitler.

It seems obvious to me that Voldemort was supposed to remind the reader of Hitler, and the Death Eaters were supposed to remind us of the Nazis. Note that the definition of a "pure blood" -- all four grandparents are witches and wizards -- is reminiscent of the Nazi definition of a non-Jew. But I don't think Voldemort "represents" Hitler.

Julia #138: OK, so if Harry's Jesus in this allegory, who's Judas? Who's Pilate? Who's Mary Magdaline? Harry has two close friends, and there are (maybe) seven or nine other Gryffyndors in his year -- shouldn't one of those numbers be twelve instead? Jesus passed the keys to the kingdom of Heaven to Peter; as I understand it (haven't read book 7 yet), Harry is hoping that the Elder Wand doesn't get passed on to anybody. If this is an allegory of the gospels, it's a very loose one.

#146 ::: Marc Moskowitz ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2007, 10:47 PM:

Heresiarch, how do you define authority? I think we're pretty much in agreement here. The author is certainly someone with good knowledge of the text, and should be able to support what they think without too much difficulty. (And I'm not advocating grilling authors for textual support for their statements unless such statements are ridiculous.) If they can't, either their interpretation or their writing is flawed. If I was an author, I would certainly rather people praise my writing and pan my analysis than vice versa!
I think the article Will@139 linked to is a good example of this, actually. If McEwan's son supported his argument with "my Dad said this was what it meant" I'd expect him to get a poor grade. (The fact that he got a low B indicated that he probably didn't do so.) I don't think "the creator told me it works this way" is any better an excuse for bad lit crit than it is for bad biology.

And I totally agree with you about Doctor Who. At least in general. I entirely deny the McGann movie myself.

#147 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2007, 01:28 AM:

Steve C. @ 134

Sexual orientation seems more pertinent when there's something to be active with.

Bite your tongue, youngster, and quit using demeaning stereotypes. Just because we're old doesn't mean we're not shaking things.

#148 ::: Renatus ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2007, 06:44 AM:

vito excalibur @ #116: The rule you're actually thinking of goes more like, "A character must not be revealed as gay unless there is a reason to reveal him as gay." Which gets right up some of our noses, because there is no corresponding rule of "A character must not be revealed as straight unless there is a reason to reveal him as straight."

Er, isn't there? I've usually heard the rule as more along the lines of "Don't explicitly reveal details about the character unless there's a reason to reveal them," which includes any and all variations of sexuality. That's how I read Greg's post @ #114.

It's not the author's fault if a chunk of the readers buy into heteronormativity and decide that the default is heterosexual until proven otherwise, although a sufficently clued in author may be able to play with this assumption in entertaining ways.

#149 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2007, 06:56 AM:

Avram @ 145:

Well, if you're going for the mythic structure of the passion narrative, Judas is the guy who decided that for the good of the cause Jesus had to be handed over to his enemies and then killed himself. Offhand, I'd say Dumbledore. Of course, Snape takes the doing what has to be done to make the story come out the way the planner has decided it's going to, having everyone think he's a traitor and being tossed aside with great force by the enemy he's "helped" role, so maybe they share it.

That said, allegory is a symbolic form. I'm not sure you can judge one by how closely the details match the details of the thing being symbolized.

Do I think it's a well-done allegory? Well, no, not particularly. The last two Potter books - the ones she said in interviews were explicitly meant to be christian - struck me as didactic, like later Louisa May Alcott or The Last Battle. By the end of Deathly Hallow* it felt to me as if she'd pretty much given up her characters and the momentum of her story in favor of straight-up exposition of the subtext in her eagerness to make sure that her readers Get the Point She's Trying to Make. I thought that was a shame, because what I liked about the stories was her deft hand with character and incident. I don't know if I would have gotten into the series if it'd been so explicitly Potter's Progress from the beginning.

Personally, I think she let the fundamentalists and that nice Cardinal Ratzinger from the Office of the Inquisition get to her and ended up writing the last two to prove they were too christian books, but that's me.

*which is kind of a hamhanded signifier itself if that's the story she was writing

#150 ::: A.J. Luxton ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2007, 08:09 AM:

Methinks Steve C. (@ 134) hasn't been exposed to the wonder of certain fanfics.

(They involve bad latin versions of Viagra.)


...But I agree it hasn't got much bearing on the story; not because of his age, but because he's the schoolmaster and the protagonist is a kid, making Dumbledore Harry's sexual equivalent of, gosh, I donno, how did you feel about your aged school principal when you were a teenager?

#151 ::: Nic ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2007, 08:55 AM:

Greg @ 114:

The unhappiness mentioned was a thing called unrequited love, not being gay.

Yes and no: if Dumbledore hadn't been gay, he couldn't have fallen for, and had his heart broken by, the bad guy. (Also, what is your sexuality but who you love?)

This sort of thing is a hot-button issue for me, so I apologise if I sound combative; I'm well aware that there are other, equally valid ways to read the situation. But I can't help but see D's portrayal in the light of the long history of often deeply unfavourable portrayals of gay people in popular media - one of which is the cliche of the gay character with the hopeless, unrequited crush on the straight friend, and their resultant life of misery.

I would love to be able to judge each character on their own merits, or to believe that it doesn't matter if a character is gay or straight, but the effect of stereotypes and cliches is cumulative, and all too rarely balanced out by positive images. If some of the straight relationships in the Potter books are dysfunctional, it hardly matters since the books are awash with others of a very different nature. But if the only canon gay character has spent his life being unhappy...?

If D being gay is irrelevant to Harry's story, then putting "D is gay" in the story simply because he is gay is not only bad writing, but turning a children's book into a soapbox for political issues.

I agree that making it into a huge issue would've been tedious. But surely there's space between invisibility and soapboxing? If Snape's heterosexuality is part of his backstory, casually mentioned, why can't D's homosexuality be the same? (And if simply mentioning that someone is gay counts as soapboxing, it can only be so because it doesn't happen often enough.)

Spiegel @ 136:

I wish. I'm on an HP mailing list and those readers are whining that JKR has alienated them.

Yes, I've seen some of that since I my comment yesterday (lots of "I've got nothing against gay people, I'd just rather not know", and "This has no place in a children's novel" type stuff). Clearly I was being too optimistic about people's rationality and tolerance. ;-) I still say it's a shame and a cop-out there it wasn't there in the text, when older characters' heterosexuality was, but even a few people re-think their worldviews after the revelation that a character they liked and respected happened to be gay, then there is something to thank JKR for.

Renatus @ 148

It's not the author's fault if a chunk of the readers buy into heteronormativity and decide that the default is heterosexual until proven otherwise, although a sufficently clued in author may be able to play with this assumption in entertaining ways.

It isn't their fault, but I do think it's something to be aware of. Why did this make headlines, after all, if not because the majority of people - even very open-minded people, even people gay themselves - assumed D was straight. Why? Because straight, white and (usually) male remains the default in popular media, and so we unwittingly take that into our reading with us. It's sad, but true: if a character is gay, or black, or anything other than this default, and this fact is not explicitly stated (or at least heavily hinted at), it will be functionally invisible to the vast majority of readers. And that's how people get written out of history. :-) I strongly believe that only a greater deliberate diversity of representation can change this situation - until it really does become irrelevant whether a character is straight or gay.

And all that turned out rather longer than I intended it to be. Ahem. Sorry, everyone...

#152 ::: Renatus ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2007, 09:21 AM:

Nic @ #151:

I was thinking about just what you brought up when I was out and about today. It's all very well and good for me to wave my hands and say it's the reader's problem if they can't pick up on clues, but then I've been consciously training myself to think out of that hetero/white/male default for years now and am queer myself--so it's not a surprise I picked right up on the subtext in book seven. I was fairly certain Dumbledore had a thing for Grindlewald after reading the book (and that Elphilas Doge was besotted with Dumbledore), but I'm definitely not most people.

Then again, I can't think of a good way Rowling would have included a clearer mention of Dumbledore's sexuality considering the POV character of the series is a heterosexual teenaged boy who's main interests are staying alive, saving the world, and girls. Him noticing any non-hetero person's sexuality enough to ponder it would have had to have been (as per my reading of the text) a big, annoyingly obvious mention that would've sent the story off course.

It's a tough one. I get really, really annoyed at the idea that all books must confront the Issues of the Day and Be Inclusive to Everyone and Be Obvious About It--but as you said, non-hetero/white/male folks aren't very visible to most people already. It's difficult to tell how subtle of a stick an author can get away with and still get the inclusiveness across to most people (I don't think it's possible to get them all--I'm still astounded that there are people who completely missed that the main characters in Anansi Boys and Carnival aren't white and their respective authors, especially in Carnival's case, made it pretty clear).

#153 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2007, 09:33 AM:

Nic @ 151:

It's sad, but true: if a character is gay, or black, or anything other than this default, and this fact is not explicitly stated (or at least heavily hinted at), it will be functionally invisible to the vast majority of readers.

Robert Heinlein seemed to think this was a feature, not a bug, which is why I'd describe him as well-meaning but failed, to the extent that he tried to insert stealth black characters.

#154 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2007, 09:59 AM:

Renatus@152: People didn't realize the character in Anansi Boys were not white? The mind boggles.

But then again, many years ago I discussed Starship Troopers with someone who could not comprehend that the main character was filipino, so what do I know?

And honestly, people whining about how Rowling was "spoiled it for them" are beginning to annoy me. The books are what they are -- a well told coming of age story. If you are in so delicate and frail a state that you cannot, cannot, cannot handle the idea that a character somehere and sometimes in the past was gay, I suggest you get thee to the Vatican's list of approved books and limit your reading.

Rant not meant for anyone here, where some of the toughest minds in the Internet gather!


#155 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2007, 10:33 AM:

The question raised of how to treat authorial intent not stated in the text has inspired some interesting followups. On Findlaw, Michael Dorf has a column titled "Harry Potter and the Framer's Intent", arguing "why James Madison is no more of an authority on the meaning of the U.S. Constitution than J.K. Rowling is on Dumbledore's sexual orientation."

http://writ.news.findlaw.com/dorf/20071022.html

#156 ::: rm ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2007, 10:34 AM:

Thanks to everyone who helped me with remedial Making Light-participation skills. Lbh sbyxf ner terng.

#157 ::: Kelly McCullough ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2007, 10:46 AM:

Neil Gaiman has an excellent take on the whole thing here that probably represents the view of a lot of authors. Second item down.

#158 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2007, 11:20 AM:

Renatus @ #152,

I can possibly imagine someone missing that the protagonists weren't white in Carnival for, oh, a portion of the beginning of the book. But how could anyone miss it for the entire book? Especially given the part where they say "Oh, yes, and all the white people? Dead. Completely dead. All of them, dead. A long time ago. Dead! Also, dead." How does anyone manage to just...miss that?

#159 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2007, 12:02 PM:

Renatus 148: I've usually heard the rule as more along the lines of "Don't explicitly reveal details about the character unless there's a reason to reveal them," which includes any and all variations of sexuality.

So you think a character should never refer to "my wife" unless the fact that he's married and heterosexual (OR she's married and Lesbian) is relevant to the plot? If you feel differently about these two cases, why? Because homosexuality is "marked" and heterosexuality is not?

julia 149: that nice Cardinal Ratzinger from the Office of the Inquisition

You mean Pope Rat? I'm not sure who the Grand Inquistor is, but when Grand Inquistors become Pope...well, the RCC has a serious GI infection!

Nic 151: If Snape's heterosexuality is part of his backstory, casually mentioned, why can't D's homosexuality be the same? (And if simply mentioning that someone is gay counts as soapboxing, it can only be so because it doesn't happen often enough.)

Right on, sibling! And right on again to your comments to Renatus.

Renatus 152: Fair enough.

Emma 154: And honestly, people whining about how Rowling was "spoiled it for them" are beginning to annoy me.

It's time to point at them and laugh and go Nyæ Nyæ Nyæ. If people are so homophobic that that wrecks the story for them, they not only deserve our derision, it's our social duty to heap it on them.

Kelly 157: Trust Neil for a thoughtful and clearly explained take on something that authors do have to think about...not to mention one that makes me want to reread all the books he mentions!

#160 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2007, 12:22 PM:

His title was Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, but the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was, until the beginning of the last century, the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Roman and Universal Inquisition.

#161 ::: Renatus ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2007, 12:23 PM:

Emma @ #154: The mind does boggle. It came up on his journal back in January and the LJ feed had a few people going "... Charlie was black?" Lots of surprise and shock from other readers ensued.

Fade @ #158: I have no idea how they missed that. I can't find the LJ post of Bear's it came up in, but I remember general consensus being "Buh?!"

Xopher @ #159: Eek, no no no. I'm sorry, I should've been more clear--I don't think that a story should directly reveal sexuality (or abuse or what have you) in a "This character is GAY!" "This character was ABUSED!" "This character has VIOLET EYES!" sort of way unless that's part of the focus of the story/themes.

Some of the comments upthread and in various other places have given me the impression that the commenters think this is what Rowling should've done with Dumbledore--have Harry run into a "Dumbledore is GAY!" mention in Skeeter's book, or have someone say it to him directly. Such a thing would've struck me as incredibly clumsy and heavy-handed and would've sent the narrative focus skittering off track.

Your examples, on the other hand, are to me things that happen to come up and are mentioned in passing as a part of the character and a realistic, non-hitting-the-reader-over-the-head way to reveal character details. For instance, Character A overhears Character B commiserating with character C about ex-boyfriends; Character B is female and C is male. Even if Character A already knew C was gay, all the reader has to know beforehand is that Character C is male to infer his sexuality without the author resorting to Character A ruminating on it (which is assuming Character A doesn't have a reasonable in-story reason to ruminate about it).

#162 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2007, 12:34 PM:

I'm a little offended by her backstory, but for a different reason - granted Dumbledore was a far more weak and fallible character than she suggested up to the last book, I think the phrase "he was terribly let down" is a very, very odd one to use to describe a lover of any gender torturing your brother and causing your sister's death, let alone turning out to be, essentially, Hitler.

Perhaps it's just me - hell, it's probably just me - but she does make it sound as if Dumbledore's war against Grindelwald was a byproduct of the end of their relationship.

The Grindelwald relationship does shine a whole new light on the way he treated Tom Riddle.

#163 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2007, 02:21 PM:

re #162: I think your last comment unwittingly gets at a major source of discomfort. For a lot of people, the word "gay" suggests someone whose identity is primarily couched in sexual terms; therefore it tends to sexualize all of their relationships with other men and boys. Well, if sexuality is writ that large, then every unmarried adult is probably homosexual, right?

#164 ::: Constance Ash ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2007, 02:26 PM:

I read the first pages of book 7 last night -- and it's all there on the page.

So much for Rowling revealing post the fact of publication and sales.

You'd have to be really inexperienced with all these signals and the language -- which is used to smear and / or out politicians and celebrities all the time -- one of the points Rowling makes.

It's right at the beginning of the book too.

Love, C.

#165 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2007, 06:06 PM:

Renatus 161: that makes a whole lot more sense. And it's bad writing to just TELL people things anyway. Actually I'd be tempted to let the two characters commiserate about ex-boyfriends, and have one be named Kate and the other Leslie, and go almost to the end of the story before having Leslie say something innocuous like "Gotta hit the men's room" or something...thus fooling the heterocentric reader into thinking Leslie was female almost all the way to the end.

But I'm evil that way. I have another story (in my head, not yet written) where the gender of the narrator is never revealed at all, though s/he does have sex with a male partway through, which will probably make most people assume s/he is female...but I'll make sure the male readers assume "she" is male right up to the sex scene.

"There are scenes in this story which some readers may find extremely disturbing." I hope to get that label on every story I publish.

When...if...I manage to, that is.

Rats. :-(

#166 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2007, 07:20 PM:

Per a CBC report, Rowling did another reading-and-interview session in Toronto this morning. The young fans didn't make any references to this matter; apparently the reporters didn't want to talk about anything else.

There was some coverage of the session on this evening's news. There was the now-expected range of reactions to the issue. One young woman expressed disappointment about Dumbledore, because he "used to be so squeaky clean, but not any more". This was, apparently, in reaction to his revealed orientation, and not to his having been in love with an evil person, having been a selfish jerk about his family, having manipulated Harry in preparation for a confrontation that he thought Harry would not survive, etc. (*sigh*)

#167 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2007, 09:46 PM:

Times makes the why wasn't he gay in the books argument. Dallas News makes what is meant to be an argument for readers having the right to their own interpretations, with this disquieting passage

With the greatest of respect, I'd like to say something to Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling:

Shut up. Please...If you didn't put it in the books, please don't tell us now.

I guess I don't want you to stop explaining completely. I'd love to know more about what inspired some of the plot details in the books. If you want to dish about how you decided on those particular inscriptions for the headstones, how you came up with the names for the characters, or how you cleverly planned the religious underpinnings of the broad arc of the story – I am all ears.

But telling us that Dumbledore is gay, as you did last week? Why would you do that?

You know, one of the few things you're actually supposed to do in a closet is pray. Funny it's the only subject that doesn't harsh his interpretive buzz if she talks about it.

#168 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2007, 10:24 PM:

julia 167: You know, one of the few things you're actually supposed to do in a closet is pray.

Not really. That's from the KJV, and back then your 'closet' was simply your private space, not a mini-room filled with hangers kind of thing.

Closets are for clothes. And a vacuum cleaner, I guess, but...[suppresses long chain of suction jokes]

#169 ::: Pyre ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2007, 10:39 PM:

Matthew Daly @ 35: Let's go farther and assert that Nicolas Flamel was also a lover....

Less supportable, since Flamel (unlike the other HP characters) was not invented by Rowling, and his marriage to Perenelle is significant enough in his life story that I doubt Rowling would have altered his orientation. In any case, she didn't, either in the text or in later discussion.

Linkmeister @ 99: Archetypes and sex: Yoda. I cringe at the thought.

*Ahem*. Seeing, believing is.

(Text: "...Some sugar, give to me, baby...")

#170 ::: Will Entrekin ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2007, 11:23 PM:

Xopher quoting Nic: "If Snape's heterosexuality is part of his backstory, casually mentioned, why can't D's homosexuality be the same? (And if simply mentioning that someone is gay counts as soapboxing, it can only be so because it doesn't happen often enough.)"

Because Snape's heterosexuality is not just part of his backstory; his unrequited love for Lily and his loathing of James, not to mention his dislike of Harry, are major parts of his character's motivation for doing what he does in the ways he does. His love for Lily is basically what keeps his character "good" (within the moral confines of the story, so to speak), not because it's "straight" but rather because it's "pure". Severus loved Lily completely, and if I recall rightly, that complete love he had for her challenged some of his deeply held beliefs (i.e., his feelings about "mudbloods").

Revealing Dumbledore's sexuality in the text would have been clumsy because it had nothing to do with the story. Revealing Dumbledore's sexuality outside the text is merely extraneous. Why not reveal the proclivities of every teacher now? Professor McGonagall liked to dress up in leather, while Umbridge was abused by a nefarious parrot when she was but a wee girl. You don't even want to know what Hooch does with her broomstick when she's not teaching her students how to fly. And Flitwick is just the right height to...

erm. Nevermind. Mixed company, and all.

What I see as a shame is that it's a major story because Rowling revealed he's gay. I want to get at a point that equality only comes when finally such things don't color one's perspective of the achievement, and that Dumbledore's homosexuality makes it neither more nor less remarkable that he accomplished great achievements during his life, like becoming headmaster and being the Gratest Whizzerd Evar, but I'm not, unfortunately, a good enough writer that I know how to word it correctly.

There's something, I think, to be said for the idea that in a perfect world, Dumbledore's sexuality, whatever it may have or not have been, when revealed, would have been met not with news nor headlines nor collective gasps of adoration or astonishment but rather with "Huh. Really? Okay. So, how about Harry's fight with Voldemort? That was pretty rad, wasn't it?"

Trust Neil to write so aptly about the subject, as Kelly noted in 157.

#171 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2007, 11:35 PM:

Re: the discussions about extra-textual information and what not.

Are we working with different definitions of the word "canon"? Or what?

I don't quite understand the arguments that say Rowling's pronouncements outside the books are not "authoritative", where "authoritative" is derived from the word "author", which I'm pretty sure Rowling is.

I suppose once a work has been in the public domain for a while and various derivatives have been created and stories stretched in all sorts of different directions than the original author wrote, then there's some room for different versions of what exactly is "canon".

But "Harry Potter" seems sufficiently fresh off the press for me and sufficiently under copyright lockdown that there isn't any such thing as authoritive text that didn't come from Rowling.

I mean, a reader can say they didn't like the way she revealed Dumbledore's orientation, but can anyone argue that D's orientation is not yet canon? At least not without the political motivation that comes from either wanting her to reveal it within the novel (cause you want good gay role models in popular fiction) or wanting her to not reveal it at all (because you don't want good gay role models in fiction)?

You can like it or not like it, you can agree with it or not agree with it, but I don't think anyone has a legitimate leg to stand on when they argue that her version of facts is not "authoritive".

#172 ::: Barbara Gordon ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2007, 12:18 AM:

Xopher at 165 - the 1998 winner of the 3-Day Novel Contest, Pawn to Queen: a Chris Prior Mystery by Pat Dobie, has a first person narrative where the gender of the narrator is never revealed. There are references to girlfriends and to past relationships, but since the story is set in Vancouver BC, that's not really a gender-clue.
The blurb pegs Chris as female, but it's not in the text either way.

My own (shortlisted but not winning) entry into the 3-Day had a major character whose gender was never established (because it didn't matter to the story). A friend said to me "But you know the gender, right?"
Nope. I don't. I have no idea what that says about authorial authority, either.
-Barbara

#173 ::: Gar Lipow ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2007, 12:55 AM:

>You can like it or not like it, you can agree with it or not agree with it, but I don't think anyone has a legitimate leg to stand on when they argue that her version of facts is not "authoritive".

As a counterexample, take Television writer Joss Whedon. When he was making Buffy the Vampire Slayer, he would often reveal stuff about his universe that was not in the show. And then a few months later, a script would be shown that contradicted it. Or, as Neil Gaiman sometimes says, "trust the tale, not the teller". So basically, no, the writer is not the final authority. The text is. I'm not saying the author is not first among equals; her interpretation certainly deserves special attention. But if it is extra-textual, then it is an opinion.

>But "Harry Potter" seems sufficiently fresh off the press for me and sufficiently under copyright lockdown that there isn't any such thing as authoritive text that didn't come from Rowling.

This is changing the subject. The question is not whether someone else can put out authoritative fiction. The question is, whether in the absence of additional text, the author is the final authority on interpretation. And there are many good reasons the answer is no, some of them given above. If JKR wants to establish authoritatively that Dumbledore is gay, she can do so quite easily - by writing a short story, or novella, or poem or whatever establishing that. Then it comes from the tale, not the teller.

#174 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2007, 01:01 AM:

c.,

For a lot of people, the word "gay" suggests someone whose identity is primarily couched in sexual terms; therefore it tends to sexualize all of their relationships with other men and boys.

well, perhaps. but that sounds like a special definition by & for homophobes, so i don't see why anyone else should use it.

it assumes, if i'm reading this correctly, that there is a class of men (women are nowhere to be seen) who are attracted to all men all the time including baby men & 140-year-old men (& would probably rape them if they could, i assume). & these men are the ones called "gay." whereas good homosexuals don't ask, don't tell, & act straight, cause that's "normal."

(i read halfway through the "why i'm not upset that dumbledore's gay" blog you linked to, until he launched into this theory-of-gay.)

#175 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2007, 01:02 AM:

Greg #171, the idea is that a text has to stand on its own, that statements made outside the text aren't part of it. According to modern literary criticism, the belief that the author has a special right to interpret the text is called the Intentional Fallacy.

Now, there are some obvious complications to this notion. For one thing, books are often revised from one edition to the next according to suggestions by the author. Was Percy's Prefect badge shiny silver or red and gold when you read it?

On the other hand, they're also sometimes revised contrary to the author's wishes. How many people here read Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, and how many read Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone?

Anyway, sometimes authors are wrong. Heinlein once wrote an essay about Starship Troopers in which he makes some claims about the text of the novel which turn out not to be true about published editions. Perhaps he was thinking of an earlier draft, but regardless, the published book says what it says.

#176 ::: Brenda Kalt ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2007, 02:02 AM:

Constance 164: I read the first pages of book 7 last night -- and it's all there on the page.

Please assume that I am even more woefully inexperienced than I am, and tell me on which page you were certain. I'd just like to see if I can spot the clues now.

Greg 171: I don't think anyone has a legitimate leg to stand on when they argue that [Rowling's] version of facts is not "authoritive".

Especially when HP fans have been mining Rowling's every interview for years.

#177 ::: A.R.Yngve ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2007, 04:37 AM:

What fascinates me is not what Rowling said and/or wrote, but the never-ending battle between readers, critics and author over whose interpretation is "True."
It's about power rather than sex: the power to interpret fictional "canon", apparently, is perceived as bringing real-world power. (Over what? Social taboos? Smearing political opponents? Over the depths of the human mind?)

Do people argue this passionately about the sexual identity of real people?

And yes, in a perfect world Rowling's statement should be met without gasps, outrage or shock. "I'm the author, this is my interpretation of what I wrote."

#178 ::: Renatus ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2007, 07:15 AM:

Xopher @ #165: And it's bad writing to just TELL people things anyway.

Definitely. That's why I'm not very impressed with any of the suggested methods of how Rowling could've revealed Dumbledore's sexuality. Even though most aren't direct author-to-reader telling, I still find them close enough to be obvious and awkward. This is another reason why the subtext in book seven worked for me--I like my revelations layered and subtle and complicated. I like having to wonder if my guess is correct.

And I like your sort of evil. Hehhehheh. I've played around with trying the same, but don't know if I could carry it off, considering how long what I usually write is. I hope you do write that story and get it published, 'cause that's the sort of thing I'd like to read.

julia @ #167: Dallas News's footstomping is awfully disingenuous, isn't it? Why would Rowling tell us that Dumbledore is gay--because she was answering someone else's question, perhaps?

That's another thing that really gets me about this--everyone who acts like Rowling called a press conference to announce a character detail. Someone else asked her a question at a fan event, she started to answer the question. And with an "I" statement, even.

But I suppose gay cooties are sooooo scary there are folks who absolutely must take her statements as her personally impinging on their safe little world. *grumble, snarl*

#179 ::: Individ-ewe-al ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2007, 07:43 AM:

Xopher @165, have you read Jeanette Winterson's Written on the body? She pulls that kind of trick, though the lover who is explicitly gendered is a woman. It didn't work for me, because in my head Winterson is a Famous Lesbian Writer* so I assumed from the first word that the narrator was a lesbian woman. But she does a pretty good job of letting the reader's assumptions fill in the blanks, without making it obvious that she is obfuscating anything.

*I don't normally care about the orientation of writers, but considering that Winterson made her name with Oranges are not the only fruit, it's hard to avoid that association.

#180 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2007, 09:42 AM:

I'm merely speculating here... but I wonder if this information was something that Rowling always had as an uncomfortable secret, something that she wanted people to know about, but had to keep quiet about because of expecting exactly the the reaction that's been happening. If so, the circumstances of the reading-and-questions session, "sufficiently long" after the publication of the last book, might have been enough to push her into opening up.

The introduction of this morning's "The Current" radio show on CBC began with (approximately): "Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling has caused consternation by revealing that one of her major character, the wizard Albus Dumbledore, is -- and always has been -- gay. But this revelation was eclipsed by United States Senator Larry Craig's announcement that he is -- and always has been -- a wizard."

#181 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2007, 09:48 AM:

Gar@173: no, the writer is not the final authority. The text is.

Avram@175: the idea is that a text has to stand on its own, that statements made outside the text aren't part of it.

Oh, come on. People were hanging on Rowling's every word before the final book came out, trying to get hints as to who was going to die. And people have hung on her every word about het relationship stuff.

The only reason I can see that people are suddenly doing a 180 is because now we're talking about homosexuality, and either some people don't like it, or some poeple don't want other people to not like it, or some people don't want it in kids books, or something.

There sure as hell wasn't this "The text is the final authority, not the author" on anything Rowling said for the ten(?) years that she was writing the books and talking about them. Not a peep on anything.

Now, homosexuality comes up, and folks get all professorial about how it isn't so because it wasn't in the books?

If she had said McGonnegal and Dumbledore had a fling way back, would anyone be pulling the "it's not official until it is in the books"?

#182 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2007, 10:24 AM:

re 174: Three things happening here. The first is that nobody can control what words mean. "Homophobe" is a case in point: for a lot of the population, it means the theory that moral condemnation of homosexuality is phobic. The people who want to assert otherwise can't make this interpretation go away (especially since it was coined precisely to intend that). It's probably just me, but I think the speaker has to make some reasonable provision for the range of meanings assigned to a word.

The second thing is that this is really about applying taxonomy. It's one thing to say that Dumbledore's attraction to Grindelwald was partly sexual. OK, then: what about Snape and Lily Potter? Wellllll, it's pretty ambiguous; Lily's "love" for her son is agape, and the vignette of her in the teasing incident tends to read the same way. And it's a little ironic to put labels on people (other than "EVIL" on Voldemort, of course) and their relationships when part of the subtext of the whole series is how subtle and complex these relationships really are.

The third thing is that people are applying that broader notion of homosexuality even within this very discussion. Well, not exactly: your version is too polemical to take seriously. But a ways above someone was speculating about how this revelation affects the relationship between Dumbledore and Potter (and I would take by implication the parallel relationship involving Tom Riddle). Isn't that essentially assuming that since "Dumbledore is gay", he would be sexually attracted to his male students?

#183 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2007, 10:28 AM:

re 177: Do people argue this passionately about the sexual identity of real people?

You better believe it. Unconventional women, especially writers, get subjected to this kind of speculation at great length.

#184 ::: Marc Moskowitz ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2007, 11:23 AM:

Greg@181, a few points:
1. There is a big difference between a hint about the text of an unpublished book and an interpretation of a finished series. One is about the text. One is not. And what's more, the hint is still not the text. You can hint for a year and still contradict the hint in the text. And the text will be what's important.
2. It is certainly possible to claim "The text of all seven books and everything JKR has ever said about them" as your canon. But that's your decision. For that matter you can take "The text of all seven books except for every mention of Aragog or Merope" if you want. A canon is simply an agreed-upon set of texts for interpretation.
3. The reason this is a huge media storm is that it's about homosexuality. That's why it made headlines, and apparently why it ended up here. But I would be very surprised if it had anything to do with the discussion of authorial intent here. The red flag that sets off literary critics isn't "[character] is gay" but "[the author]’s the only one who would know for sure". Personally, I think the interpretation of D as gay makes a lot of sense. But I think JKR is smoking crack if she doesn't think Neville and Luna end up together.

#185 ::: Jen Roth ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2007, 11:28 AM:

Greg: I would argue that mining Rowling's statements for spoilers is a completely different exercise than proclaiming everything she says *as* canon. You can do the former and still believe that the text itself is the only actual canon. It's just that Rowling knows what's in the text before the books hit the shelves. (I for one wouldn't have advised trying to get spoilers from her about any given book until that book was actually written; she did change her mind about stuff. For instance, if you'd caught her in a weak moment two years ago, she might have let slip that Neguhe Jrnfyrl was going to die. Would that have made it canon? Of course not.)

Also, you're quite sure that the people saying "Dumbledore isn't canonically gay because it wasn't in the text" are the *same* people who have been proclaiming Rowling's every extratextual word to be canon? Sure enough to make accusations of homophobia and hypocrisy?

#186 ::: Will Entrekin ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2007, 11:34 AM:

"If she had said McGonnegal and Dumbledore had a fling way back, would anyone be pulling the "it's not official until it is in the books"?"

I wouldn't, but my current reaction would still be the same: "Stop talking. You're a writer. Put it in a book. Write a prequel, or farm out the license like Lucas did."

Not because I think it "needs to be part of an officially sanctioned canon," or anything, mind.

More just because I'm the sort of reader who'd rather read things.

#187 ::: Sarah S ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2007, 11:47 AM:

#183 and #177

Heck yes. Consider the debates over Shakespeare and Katherine Phillips...

#188 ::: Gar Lipow ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2007, 11:49 AM:

Right. I actually think the Dumbledore being gay makes a lot of sense. There is a fair amount of evidence to support. But I believe it because of the textual evidence - not because JKR said it in a Q&A session.

#189 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2007, 02:20 PM:

Greg London @ 181

Actually, yes, there would, because there was. There was a huge fuss with an earlier book over Harry and Hermione getting together with someone other than each other from fanfic people who'd decided that they were supposed to be together. I specifically remember people saying that Rowling didn't understand the characters or their situations nearly as well as they, the readers, did.

Of course, that was about a character doing something with their sexuality that a reader didn't agree with, so it probably makes your point all over again.

#190 ::: cmk ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2007, 02:27 PM:

I think Rowling's comment is interesting and I can see grounds for it in the text. I don't really understand what the lit-crit-based fuss is about.

As to ungendered characters, I don't think anyone's mentioned the late Sarah Caudwell's amateur detective Professor Hilary Tamar. Hilary comments favorably on the physical charms of both male and female characters through a (too short) series of novels and remains definitely ambiguous to this day, unless I mean ambivalent.

#191 ::: Kelly McCullough ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2007, 03:24 PM:

Will Entrekin @ #186

My problem with "Stop talking. You're a writer. Put it in a book. Write a prequel, or farm out the license like Lucas did." is that it gives more weight to the fans who don't want to know something than to those who do at a disproportionate cost to the latter.

J.K.Rowling was asked a direct question by a fan who really wanted to know Rowling's answer. If Rowling had the answer in her head, should she really deprive those who are interested so that those who aren't don't have to hear about it?

It seem to me that if an author doesn't answer questions it penalizes those who want to know the answers far more than answering penalizes those who don't want to know. With the exception of a few very big names it is much easier to avoid author answers to fan questions than it is to divine those same answers if they're never given.

More than that, giving an honest answer to an honest question seems a matter of simple courtesy. As an author, my default response to fan questions is to answer them to the best of my ability unless answering them will create spoilers for later books. To do otherwise would feel impolite.

#192 ::: alsafi ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2007, 03:49 PM:

I am only vaguely tangentially on topic here, but I was awfully disappointed to find I had misparsed Victoire as a male name at the very tail end of the last book. I had been very briefly delighted to imagine Teddy snogging his boyfriend on Platform 9 3/4.

#193 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2007, 03:54 PM:

I hope it's not too obvious to point out that the idea of a "canon" (a particular selection of texts and interpretations intended as an authoritative, shared, self-consistent imaginary world) is popular in fandom but is by no means a universally embraced way to appreciate fiction. Indeed, there are a number of things about the idea of canon that are downright weird when I stop to think about them (Okay, so I'm supposed to treat this fiction as more real than this other fiction? Who says?), even though I can see the usefulness of the idea in many contexts of fandom.

One of the subtler ways Douglas Adams's Hitchhiker's Guide works poked fun at SF conventions was the refusal to follow the usual "canon" rules. Adams would often point out with amusement how each time he write Hitchhiker's for a new medium, it would contradict the versions in all the previous media in various ways, and he wouldn't claim any particular version as "canonical".

(In contrast, I thought one of the weaknesses of the last Hitchhiker's book he completed was that it seemed to forget that idea, trying too
obtrusively to reconcile earlier plot points with his ending.)

#194 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2007, 04:28 PM:

re 193: Then there's the other side of the coin: writers who, for love or money, go back and revisit older works, and write sequels to them. The problem, often enough, is that the passage of time has turned them into interpreters of their own work, so that the new isn't really coherent with the old. The most egregious example, for me, is Clarke not getting that there was nothing he could do to follow up "The Ramans do everything in threes" that could live up to that marvelous parting line; OTOH, he also gets a star for canon-breaking by choosing to have 2010 be a sequel to the movie instead of the book. But I've also never been able to stomach the Earthsea sequels, for the same reason: they show all too strongly the sign of years of introspection about the first series.

#195 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2007, 04:44 PM:

c.,

But a ways above someone was speculating about how this revelation affects the relationship between Dumbledore and Potter (and I would take by implication the parallel relationship involving Tom Riddle). Isn't that essentially assuming that since "Dumbledore is gay", he would be sexually attracted to his male students?

i think when people here were saying "affects the relationship," they meant "how uninvolved adults would view the relationship, because of the stereotype of gay men being attracted to boys & young teens." i'd have to look at the riddle comments again, though.

#196 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2007, 05:01 PM:

C. Wingate @ #194: I certainly don't count the Rama sequels as canon because a) Clarke didn't write them, and b) they suck so hard that they emit Hawking radiation.

#197 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2007, 05:03 PM:

Niall #196

LOL

#198 ::: Julia S. ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2007, 05:41 PM:

cmk @190

And Edward Gorey's amazing cover illustrations of the members of chambers, with only Professor Tamar's wig and robe visible...so genius!

And the "why didn't Rowling tell us about Dumbles in the text" people are missing something--she did. Some of you didn't catch it. The rest of us got it.

#199 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2007, 05:48 PM:

C. Wingate @ 182 and miriam beetle @ 195

That was my comment @ 162

The Grindelwald relationship does shine a whole new light on the way he treated Tom Riddle.

and that wasn't what I meant by it. I guess I should have explained.

Voldemore/Riddle says (I think more than once) how frustrating it was for him that he could never snow Dumbledore the way he snowed the other teachers.

I just wonder if Dumbledore, having been burned once by Grindelwald (whose charisma dazzled him into not noticing that he was dangerous), was more likely to be suspicious of all that youthful charm and promise and recognize what Tom Riddle was.

#200 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2007, 06:01 PM:

Julia, the thing is that the observation doesn't really depend on the sexuality of the D/G relationship; it works just as well even if you assume that there was no sexual component at all. One can also look at Voldemort's remark and see in it (perhaps) a bit of self-delusion, especially considering his surpassing confidence in his own powers; it's pretty clear that Slughorn in particular is vain in a way that makes him easy to snow, but it's not so clear that this is as true of the other masters of the time as Voldemort would like to think.

#201 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2007, 08:22 PM:

C. Wingate @ 200

Of course, that's true, but up to this point the only picture we've really had of what went on between the two was from Aberforth, who strongly suggested that his brother's relationship with Grindelwald was all about Albus' will to power.

That would certainly have to be part of it, but now Rowling seems to be suggesting that Albus didn't recognize the water he was swimming in because he was smitten with Grindelwald (and I don't assume they had a sexual relationship - teenagers fall in fiercely in love all the time without consummating anything).

My model for this is, I guess, less man in love with man than high-powered adult-pleasing academic geek all of a sudden finds himself close friends with glamorous bully and flirts with what he chooses to tell himself is the magical version of clear-eyed libertarianism right up until his sister's lying dead.

I just think sadder-but-wiser high-powered adult-pleasing academic geek would be likely to feel his spider sense tingling when he ran into glamorous bully number two. Either bully or both could be women and not change the dynamic very much, by my reading.

#202 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2007, 08:43 PM:

Ack. My communications skills are certainly covering me with glory today, aren't they.

^teenagers fall in fiercely in love without consummating anything all the time

#203 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2007, 10:02 PM:

So, if Rowling had left Harry and Hermione uncoupled throughout the books, and then she said at some book signing that they never get together, that to me would still be canon.

It sort of makes me think of Humphrey Bogart saying "Play it again, Sam." He never actually said that in the movie, but that's how everyone quotes it. But it's still canon that he didn't say that line.

I mean, one can't really argue whether Bogey said "you played it for her, you can play it for me, now play it" or whether he said "play it again, sam". It is what it is, no matter how much you wanted Bogey to say "Badges? We don't need no stinking badges". But no movie said that.

Certainly if an author mangles their own content later, and it contradicts the book, then the book is one thing, and the author said something different.

But I don't see any contradictions with Rowling saying D is gay. Which simply means that previous to that book signing, D's orientation was unknown, and those who filled in one way or another, had made an assumption.

As far as someone like Douglas Adams goes, I think his many-versions is in it's own way canonical, in a sort of parallel universe kind of way.

#204 ::: Will Entrekin ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2007, 01:31 AM:

"My problem with "Stop talking. You're a writer. Put it in a book. Write a prequel, or farm out the license like Lucas did." is that it gives more weight to the fans who don't want to know something than to those who do at a disproportionate cost to the latter."

Not really. Those who don't want to know can simply choose not to read it.

Me, I don't mind knowing. I just wish I'd read it, rather than having been told. I don't like being told things. I don't trust the tellers. Tellers lie. Tales don't (well. Unless they're told by unreliable narrators. But that's another issue entirely).

"If Rowling had the answer in her head, should she really deprive those who are interested so that those who aren't don't have to hear about it?"

Well, the question, according the transcript I've read, was "Did Dumbledore, who believed in the prevailing power of love, ever fall in love himself."

A simple "yes" would have sufficed.

#205 ::: anatidaeling ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2007, 09:32 AM:

I attended a Deathly Hallows party at the public library last summer, dressed as Moaning Myrtle. I wondered what house Moaning Myrtle had belonged to. (I figured Gryffindor, since she was in the bathroom Hermione uses, and that must be a Gryffindor bathroom, after all.)

But a fan dressed as Hermione told me that Moaning Myrtle had been in Ravenclaw. How did she know? J.K. Rowling had mentioned it in an interview.

To me, that didn't settle it. To my point of view, if it wasn't in the book (implicitly or explicitly) then we don't know what house Moaning Myrtle was in.

The fan dressed as Hermione and I saw this differently. To her, Rowling's extra-textual commentary made a difference to how she experienced the story. Not to me.

But the Dumbledore thing is different, because it does seem to be implied in the text.

Meanwhile, here in Pittsburgh, PA, there is a Mayoral race between Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and another candidate whose name doesn't sound like any of the Hogwarts houses. (I thought he would make that a campaign issue, but so far it hasn't come up.)

#206 ::: Kelly McCullough ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2007, 09:48 AM:

Will Entrekin @ 204

Not really. Those who don't want to know can simply choose not to read it.

That was my point. It is far easier to avoid an author's extra-textual answers than to seek them out. Why penalize those who want the answers by trying to convince the author to shut up everywhere but the page?

#207 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2007, 09:55 AM:

Will, the trouble with that simple "yes" is that it is, in its own way, infuriating and disrespectful. I can understand why an author would do it; I can certainly get why someone like Neil Gaiman, who has a professional interest in being coy about things there may yet be sequels for, might want to keep his cards close to his chest on certain things. That's different from making that a standard all writers Ought To meet when talking about their work.

And, honestly? Your saying "I don't like being told things" is starting more and more to feel like a preference you're trying to elevate to a virtue. And when you go from there to saying, to the great community of writers mighty and small, "Shut up unless you have a story to tell me" - well, aside from sounding arch and imperious (which it does), it's telling creators they have no business participating in the fandom of their own creations. And I can't get on board with that. What's the point in building a great big sandbox and filling it with amazing toys if you can't get in there and play along with everyone else?

#208 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2007, 10:57 AM:

Some belated thoughts on the subject...

1) Writers often (usually?) have a substantial amount of background information that doesn't make it into the final story for whatever reason.

2) Some writers like to talk about this additional background information, some don't. This is purely a matter of personal preference.

3) Apparently Rowling is one of the writers who likes to talk about the additional background information.

#209 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2007, 11:22 AM:

A simple "yes" would solve nothing - the next question would be "with who?"

#210 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2007, 11:38 PM:

Xopher@165: Laurie King pulled a version of that in her first Kate Martinelli book; we learn that Kate's partner, (IIRC) Leslie, is female ~halfway through the book.

anatidaeling@205: is Moaning Myrtle using Hermione's default loo, or just the girls' on one of the classroom levels?

Meanwhile, even Massachusetts is not immune to severe stupidity about HP. I'm wondering whether the Father in the story actually thinks magic is possible, and if not just what he thinks his flock will be tempted \to/?

#211 ::: anatidaeling ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 09:10 AM:

CHip@210,

I don't know the location of Moaning Myrtle's loo, but the question merits further study and debate.

#212 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 09:50 AM:

re 204: Those who don't want to know can simply choose not to read it.

It's a little hard to do that when it's a headline on CNN-- or for that matter, a topic in Making Light.

#213 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 01:46 PM:

CHip (210): In the interests of precision: Lee, not Leslie.

#214 ::: David DeLaney ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 11:25 PM:

Having read down this far in the comments, one thing I haven't seen mention of at all yet: as far as I understand it all, she didn't just reveal this in a random interview in response to a random question. It actually came up in the context of _movie_ #6 (or maybe #5? I'm not sure where they are in the movies, relative to the books)... because the writers for that movie were about to put in a female love-interest for Dumbledore, and she had to say "no, don't do that please, he's gay", essentially. So while it was subtle and easy to miss in the books, the books are not all there is - she has to keep the movies in line with her vision too, when they want to throw extra stuff in that's not in the books or that condenses something in the books. If it were only the books involved, she might have been content to leave it Mysterious with a Knowing Smile in interviews for some time...

--Dave

#215 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2007, 02:01 AM:

According to the transcription linked up at comment #3, the specific question was "Did Dumbledore, who believed in the prevailing power of love, ever fall in love himself?"

In the course of the answer, Rowling mentions that she'd already revealed Dumbledore's orientation to the writer of the sixth movie, because he'd added a bit where Dumbledore reminisces about a girl he used to know; but the movie wasn't the context of the question, nor the whole context of the answer.

(For that matter, I don't see that the movies make that much difference: there's nothing stopping the movies taking the same tack (ie. not saying anything either way) that the books did.)

#216 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2007, 08:31 AM:

...which means that the questioner was eliding together the different types of love....

#217 ::: Pyre ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 11:21 PM:

On "canon", the author's author-ity, and whether to believe the "tale" or the "teller":

Sometimes neither the "tale" nor the "teller" gets the final word.

Originally, Arthur Conan Doyle's own firm belief was that Sherlock Holmes died along with Moriarty in the battle at Reichenbach Falls. ACD was sick and tired of the character, and wanted to move on to serious litrachah. He got overruled by his readers.

Likewise, John Rambo died at the end of First Blood -- so said the original book's author, David Morrell, in his foreword to the sequel. He got overruled by the movies.

Sherlock Holmes fandom was (as far as I know) the first to make a big fooforaw about whether story events were or were not "canon". I think that's ironic in light of Reichenbach Falls, but the precedent is worth remembering when discussing any other story-world's "canon" or self-contradictions or auctorial authority.

#218 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 11:33 PM:

Pyre, I think the Synod of Hippo beats out Holmes fandom by about a millennium and a half.

#219 ::: Pyre ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2007, 01:06 AM:

Avram: Fair enough.

For "story events" I should have specified "acknowledged (on one level) as fiction"...

... though on another level the Holmes "canon" was also presumed by its fandom to be true history.

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