How to Prepare For the Siege

The year 1893 brought a terrible blight upon the land. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle released a story called The Final Problem in which his famous character Sherlock Holmes fought his nemesis Moriarty at the edge of a waterfall and they both fell, "locked in each other's arms," dying when they hit the water. The news of the great detective's death hit the public like a tsunami, leaving misery and despair in its wake. Mourners everywhere wore their grief on their sleeves and hats in the form of mourning bands. They wrote imploring letters begging Conan Doyle to bring Holmes back again. Some wrote threatening letters. I have no doubt some wrote thoroughly crazy letters. More than 20,000 people cancelled their subscriptions to The Strand, the magazine that published the Holmes stories. In the end Conan Doyle relented and several years later Holmes returned in The Hound of the Baskervilles and went on to star in many more stories, the last of which was published in 1927, more than thirty years after Holmes' first "death."

So what can we expect when Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is released this weekend? First euphoria as eager readers devour their long awaited copies. Then lethargy, sadness, rage and betrayal, because no matter what happens, whether Harry lives or dies, whether Voldemort is finally conquered or turns Hermione to the dark side and goes off to live with her forever, a la Hannibal, no matter what, fans who love these characters and stories are going to be grieving because this is the end of the line. You're going to have to prepare for this and you're going to have to prepare for it in the same way you’d prepare for a zombie attack; barricade yourself in your house and ignore the pitiful wailing and screaming from outside your door.

I realize it's unkind to think of your neighbors and friends as the walking dead but it's entirely possible that their behavior will actually be worse. Just imagine the streets filled with shell-shocked people of all ages moaning, "Harry, Harry, need more Harry." Even more upsetting will be those who grab you by the lapels and demand to know Why, why did _______ have to die? Or live? Why couldn't _______ have finally kicked the bucket? Why is Ms. Rowling so cruel?

If this prospect isn't enough to make you shudder then be aware that 12 million books have been printed for the United States alone. Canada has another 750,000 ready for eager fans. When Bloomsbury, the British publisher of the Harry Potter books, announced that Ms. Rowling would be signing books at London's Natural History Museum there were 90,000 children vying for the coveted spots. Amazon UK says they've had 1.6 million in presales. This book is going to be everywhere. There will no escaping it. It's going to be much worse than bird flu. And the worst of it is that as of Tuesday Ladbrokes Sportsbook had odds of 8/11 that Harry would commit suicide at the end of the book.

Can you imagine what kind of impact this is going to have on millions of children all around the world? There will be sobbing and rioting in the streets. Ms. Rowling will have to go into seclusion to avoid lynching. And that's why you'll have to take extreme steps to protect yourself and your family.

First, barricade the house. You don't have to use red tape as they do in Pulse, just prepare for people battering themselves against your doors and windows as they try and tell you the plot. Get some good strong earplugs. Sound dampening headphones may work as well. You don't want to inadvertently hear what happens at the end. Go to the store right now and lay in some supplies, just as though you were expecting a hurricane or an earthquake or Martians or whatever plagues your particular geographical area.

Once you're home, finish making your home secure. Then harden your heart. Don't give in to any pleadings you hear. If someone knocks on your door and says they just want to borrow a cup of sugar, don't believe them. They'll corner you and either tell you the entire plot or they'll fling themselves into your arms and soak your lapels with tears as they lament the loss of their favorite characters. Or they’ll just go on and on, whinging about how their most hated characters got to live. You'll hear the words "It's not fair" so many times you'll want to scream. So just avoid the whole thing by ignoring anyone you hear, no matter how pitiful they sound.

The biggest question is how long you have to remain in seclusion. You're going to have to let experience guide you here. How long was it until people stopped giving away the ending of The Crying Game or The Sixth Sense? How many people are still talking about the character who died in the last Harry Potter book? (At a panel I attended in May several people were still lamenting while others were demanding the blood of Harry for "being a bad friend.") Hopefully the most violent reaction will be gone in a couple of weeks, allowing you to emerge blinking from your home, cautiously eying the new world that Ms. Rowling has wrought.

What are you going to do while you're locked away? Why not read the The Final Problem for yourself and see what all the fuss was about? Or even better, read one of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Professer Challenger books. These have always been favorites of mine. I'm especially fond of The Lost World.

Or you could try Cory Doctorow's recent Locus Award winning story When Sysadmins Ruled the Earth, which is a fitting topic as it deals with a world changing event. Like all of Cory's work it's in bookstores and free online. It's part of his terrific short story collection Overclocked, which you can access here. I also strongly recommend Anda's Game, a really terrific story about a chubby girl who's crap at sports but excellent at an online adventure game and what happens when she starts to look past the surface of her life.

But before you wall yourself away you may as well go to a Harry Potter party. There are plenty to choose from, for all ages and with all sorts of things to do. You can find one by using the midnight party finder app at the Scholastic website. Just remember one thing, you have to act like Cinderella and flee before the stroke of midnight when the books are released.

One-Paragraph Review

This week's one-paragraph review is from Sad Harry Potter Fan who says, "I just watched the new Harry Potter movie and it's not very good. Sigh. They left a lot out of the book." Have you got a one-paragraph (or smaller) review you'd like to share? Send it in to me and I'll run the most interesting ones. You can reach me at feedback@qualitytimeweekly.com.