I have a cat. Her name is Lily. She was part of a litter named after Harry Potter characters, which means technically she’s Lily Potter. However, now when people ask where name comes from, I tell them she’s named after a side character from the raunchy gay rom-com series, Eating Out, who is a trans woman in the movies.
It’s a stupid lie, because it doesn’t matter. My cat certainly doesn’t care, but it feels good to tell.
When I adopted my cat, we didn’t know what we know now about that author. Now, we know. It’s a small pivot when trying to navigate what you do when you discover a beloved author has beliefs that are repugnant. At this point, the rise and fall of an author is happening before us in real time too. We’ve learned a lot over the past years.
H. P. Lovecraft was a racist.
Orson Scott Card is homophobic.
J. K. Rowling is transphobic.
In the speculative world, these names are powerful names in the genre. You can’t look at horror without finding roots in Lovecraft and Cthulhu. Ender’s Game was formative for many young readers breaking into science fiction. Harry Potter remains a cultural anchor for fantasy readers.
In the instance of Rowling, we didn’t know when we fell in love with the series that she held such harmful beliefs about trans people. We do now, and there’s a dissonance that nobody knows how to move forward. Do we burn all her books in a glorious cathartic ceremony? Do we never mention her name again, in hopes she disappears?
While those options may feel great in the moment, the reality is that she’s not going anywhere. Not with theme parks, video games, and more movies on the horizon from her Potterverse.
So, what now? Here are a few suggestions:
- Skip where you can: Don’t buy more things from them. Don’t support their new projects. Don’t stream their movies.
- Talk about the issues: We live in a world where social media makes us think everyone knows what is happening, but it isn’t the reality. Keep people informed. Let people make informed decisions about what books they choose to support.
- Support other authors: Sometimes, telling someone their favorite author is garbage doesn’t go over well, but making some book recommendations can be an opening to a new conversation. Talk about authors that are doing great things! It’s hard to put down one series if you don’t have something to replace it.
But Eric, you might be asking, how can I support new authors if I don’t know where to start?
Start here with some of my personal recommendations.
- Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire is Chronicles of Narnia with magic school vibes. It’s the first in the Wayward Children series, and it features a diverse LGBTQ+ cast of characters. What happens when you find a door to a new and exciting world, only to have that world eventually send you back home? These quick little reads pack a hefty emotional punch!
- Darker Shades of Magic by V. E. Schwab is described by the author as Avatar: The Last Airbender meets Harry Potter. It has elemental based magic, traveling between worlds, and fashion! There are queer characters and a prominent non-binary character, who is one of the main protagonists.
- Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia gives you all the Lovecraft vibes you need, but without all the blatantly racist themes. The story is a slow build to a fantastic third act, which left me wanting so much more.
- Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie for those looking to fill the void in their science fiction libraries. A story told through the point-of-view of a sentient spaceship AI that is on the path of justice to avenge their destroyed fleet. The AI, who is unable to distinguish gender, defaults to female pronouns for all characters, creating a different reading experience than I’ve ever had before.
The reality is that no matter what, some of these authors are going to persist. We will never erase Lovecraft from the horror genre. Rowling will have a lasting impression of fantasy for the rest of our lives. They happened.
What we can do, however, is pivot and shift. We can find new things to consume and promote. We can think twice before referring to something as your “Patronus.” We can create new stories that fill the void of what people are longing for, and perhaps, we can even lie about the origin of our cat’s name.