As social media controversies over the expressed views of fantasy writer J.K. Rowling and a game based on her Harry Potter series continued into February 2023, a quote resurfaced attributed to famed author Ursula Le Guin on the subject of Rowling’s books.
In February 2023, the release of video game Hogwarts Legacy generated heated discussions for a number of reasons. A February 9 2023 BBC article summarized the debate:
Hogwarts Legacy, a major video game adaptation of the wizarding world created by JK Rowling, has arrived, following a fierce online debate.
An open world adventure title like this has been at the top of some Harry Potter fans’ wish lists for some time.
But others are calling for a boycott because of Rowling’s public comments on issues about transgender people.
Despite the controversy, it is predicted by some to be the biggest-selling premium release of 2023.
On February 10 2023, gaming news site Kotaku reported a “mess” on game-related internet forums, excerpting some of the comments:
Rowling is not directly involved with the development of Hogwarts Legacy, but she will reportedly earn profits from the game’s use of the Harry Potter IP [intellectual property]. Understandably, many people who are sympathetic to transgender rights are uncomfortable with spending money on the game, and many have called for a boycott. The surrounding controversy has colored Legacy’s launch. From a cursory glance of the Steam discussions, there was one transphobic or defensive comment every one or two pages. Perhaps this was unavoidable, as Valve only moderates Steam forums if users flag problematic content. Now that the game has launched, Steam users have been posting 2-3 pages of comments every minute or so.
Content warning: Transphobic language
A lot of the comments on Legacy’s Steam forums weren’t even about the game itself. Several posts thanked Rowling for upsetting the “woke” players and “preventing” queer people from playing the game. Another read: “Dear gays and transgenders in the discussions… If you cannot handle people being different [from] you, you won’t survive five minutes outside.” Bro, I’m not the sad one posting transphobic garbage on the Steam forums. Another proudly proclaimed that they didn’t like Harry Potter, but wanted to buy the game to support Rowling.
Entertainment site WeGotThisCovered.com’s post “This review absolutely nails why you shouldn’t pick up ‘Hogwarts Legacy’” focused on a Wired review of the game:
Jaina Grey writes in her Hogwarts Legacy review, “Since 2019 though, the once-beloved children’s author has—well, she’s had some opinions. About people like me.” At this point, the controversy surrounding J.K. Rowling’s transphobia has been well documented from liking a tweet that claimed transwomen were just men in dresses and the ongoing hostility she has shown the trans community. Grey goes on to explain, “When one of those voices comes from the author who taught you about accepting yourself, a person you thought truly saw you and kids like you, it hurts in a way I honestly hope she never understands. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.”
The following tweet was embedded:
A February 4 2023 Facebook post contained a February 2022 tweet which said, “it’s actually your civic duty to share Ursula le Guin’s casually devastating, icily astute take down of the harry potter novels whenever you see it”:
A May 2021 tweet featured what appeared to be the same image, with text that said:
Just thinking of how Ursula K. Le Guin bodied JK Rowling.
Beneath that, text on the screengrab said:
Q: Nicholas Lezard has written `Rowling can type, but Le Guin can write.’ What do you make of this comment in the light of the phenomenal success of the Potter books? I’d like to hear your opinion of JK Rowling’s writing style
UKL: I have no great opinion of it. When soo many adult critics were carrying on about the “incredible originality” of the first Harry Potter book, I read it to find out what the fuss was about, and remained somewhat puzzled; it seemed a lively kid’s fantasy crossed with a “school novel”, good fare for its age group, but stylistically ordinary, imaginatively derivative, and ethically rather mean-spirited.
Neither tweet mentioned the origin of the quote. We located it in a February 9 2004 interview with Le Guin published by The Guardian:
Q: Nicholas Lezard has written ‘Rowling can type, but Le Guin can write.’ What do you make of this comment in the light of the phenomenal success of the Potter books? I’d like to hear your opinion of JK Rowling’s writing style
UKL: I have no great opinion of it. When so many adult critics were carrying on about the “incredible originality” of the first Harry Potter book, I read it to find out what the fuss was about, and remained somewhat puzzled; it seemed a lively kid’s fantasy crossed with a “school novel”, good fare for its age group, but stylistically ordinary, imaginatively derivative, and ethically rather mean-spirited.
February 2023 social media discussions about the release of the game Hogwarts Legacy renewed interest in commentary about Rowling’s Harry Potter books by author Ursula Le Guin. The circulating quote was correctly attributed, and it originated with an interview Le Guin did with The Guardian in 2004.