Okay, maybe you’ve heard of it or not, but this has been a big trending story the last few days:
For those of you not willing to click the link, J.K. Rowling put out a statement in an interview telling us that she regrets Hermione and Ron getting together, that it should it have been Harry instead, and as it is they’ll need counseling.
Not that everyone in the series probably couldn’t use counseling, but hey. And this is the second time she’s done something like this, trying to change the way we think about the story long after it’s been written – The first was when she announced Dumbledore was gay.
From my corner, I have no issue with either change (Not really a huge potter fan in the first place), but it still irks me in some way – I guess that instead of being careful and writing these ideas into the books when they were written, she’s come out later and gone “Well I screwed up, it should be that way.”
But of course she has the right to say whatever she wants about her work. Hell, I defended George Lucas’ abysmal edits to the original series – of course I have no requirement to watch the new ones or care about them whatsoever – but I do agree on some level with his idea that an artist should keep trying to fix and tweak their art until it’s ‘right’. But it does raise an interesting question, because pretty much anytime anything like this happens (an artist changing their work long after it’s released) it’s met with open vehemence. It’s a stance that in a sense flies right in the face of allowing the user to create their own meaning.
It gets into the ideas of aesthetics we’ve been playing around with, but once the object is imbued with a meaning and set out into the world, you get your users or perceivers creating the other half – They fill in and understand the work through their own lens and get to know it as themselves. It’s sort of the idea of emergence that game developers work towards, just muted and hidden within one person’s interpretation. And to come back in as an artist or designer and say “Whoops I fucked up, let me edit that” can easily rip apart someone’s understanding, and have them lose a lot of faith in both your story, and you as a creator.
So when is it okay to do so? When is it better to just start on an entirely new work? I mean in either of my examples, I doubt that many Potter or Star Wars fans were irrevocably thrusted out of enjoying their fandom, but these types of edits seem to be damaging in some way. What lesson is there to be learned as a designer?