SPOILER ALERT! If you haven’t read THE MVP, then move the hell along. Here there be spoilers …
“He surveyed the oblong playing surface. One hundred and fifty yards long from end-to-end, about sixty yards wide at the middle, marked by a line that split the field into two equal halves. Three five-foot-diameter rings floated on either end: one ring about ten feet high, one about fifteen, and the top one about twenty, their open sides all parallel to the mid-field line.”
Excerpt from THE MVP, Book IV in the Galactic Football League series
I’ve been getting questions about “The Game” that is featured in the opening chapters of THE MVP. The first question usually is: “Is that Quidditch?” The second is more of a statement, along the lines of: “I saw you ripped off J.K. Rowling, you jerk.”
The answer to the question is: “Yes.” The answer to the statement is: “Pretty sure you’re missing the point, my good detective.”
From both parties, there has been a follow-up question: “Why?”
Lemme rustle you up an answer, pardner …
MY CHARACTERS ARE YOU:
Almost all of my stories are connected into a continum called “Siglerverse.” Stories aren’t necessarily sequels of one another, but they all spring from the same timeline. That timeline begins from our modern world, from the world that you and I see on a daily basis. There are differences, of course, particularly when the government is involved — presidents have different names and there is a “Department of Special Threats,” which doesn’t really exist, for example. By 99.9% of the time, the characters in my modern-day books live in a world that is your world.
My characters have seen the same TV shows you have, like Columbo and Battlestar Galactica. They’ve seen Aliens and Spiderman. They’ve read the same books, like Misery, 50 Shades of Gray (oh, stop it, you know you peeked) and — yes — Harry Potter.
One character in particular loves Rowling’s work. Petra Prawatt was first seen in the ANCESTOR prequel episodes, three chapters that are in the free podcast and the audiobook, but are not in the eBook or the print versions. You’ll see more of Petra in an a short story scheduled to be included in ROBOT UPRISINGS (New York: Vintage, 2014), an anthology edited by Daniel H. Wilson and John Joseph Adams.
PETRA IS A SUPERFAN
When Petra first appears in the Siglerverse, she is sporting a Gryffindor scarf. She’s a super-crazy fan of the Harry Potter series. And she’s the only one who’s crazy for that series, right? I mean, Rowling became a billionaire because only a handful of people wanted everything Potter-related they could get their hands on.
But here’s where it starts to feel weird, at least to me; a fictional character being crazy for a fictional character? Doesn’t that somehow cross the streams?
WHEN THINGS START TO GET META
There seems to be an unspoken feeling out there that fictional characters can like poets, playwrights and literary figures, and that’s “normal,” but for a character to be hugely into a modern pop-culture prophet, that’s kind of … well, weird. A character quotes Shakespeare and Emerson? No one bats an eyelash. A vampire is crazy about Buffy the Vampire Slayer? It kind of gunks up your brain a little bit.
I think that’s the reason Robert Kirkman’s THE WALKING DEAD is set in our world, just one that has never heard the word “Zombie” or had any kind of zombie books/movies/shows. With that one simple-yet-smart move, he doesn’t have to deal with characters saying “but in the zombie movies, you shoot them in the brain, so let’s do that.” The polar opposite of that is ZOMBIELAND, in which the characters have seen all the zombie flicks that you have — and that knowledge gives them a leg up in the battle to stay alive (cardio!).
Petra is a Potter superfan. She also just so happens to be a genius in self-assembling robotics, biomimicry and cybernetics. And when I say “genius,” we’re talking Einstein-levels of game change: she can create self-replicating life.
So if you’re a 16-year-old girl that is lightyears ahead of everyone around you, and you’re a crazy Potter fan, and you can create life? It makes one wonder what she might have that created life do to test it out.
QUIDDITCH IS A REAL THING, SUCKA
Sure, you read the book (or at least saw the movie) and you know Quiddich is Rowling’s made-up sorcerer sport. Wizard kids on brooms. Pretty bad-ass, if you ask me (although one typo in the words “golden snitch” and the game takes on a whole new meaning).
Okay, you knew that, but did you also know Quidditch is for realz? The International Quidditch Association is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to governing the sport of quidditch and inspiring young people to lead physically active and socially engaged lives.
There are 828 teams in the USA alone, over 1,000 worldwide in over 30 countries, including Russia, South Africa, Australia, Italy, Canada and India, just to name a few.
So “the game” goes beyond the stories of Harry Potter. It’s a real thing. So when I work Quidditch into THE MVP, is this a meta reference, or is it an extension of our modern world, like everything else in my books?
THE GAME ITSELF:
I haven’t played Quidditch, but it looks like a blast. One can imagine that if it continues to develop, the “serious” players may branch off and make it a new sport: sans-brooms, of course. Get rid of the brooms, add in robotic balls that do what the balls do in the game itself, and you’re left with a hard-hitting affair that could be a ton of fun to both play and watch. Point of order: the “golden snitch” has got to go, folks — it completely invalidates the rest of the scoring (not that I expect wizards to be all that logical, mind you).
The Prawatt don’t think this is meta, it’s their game. It’s American Football in America, it’s regular football (my people call it “soccer”) in Europe, it’s cricket in India, it’s hockey in Canada. The IQA is already proof positive that a fictional sport can leap into reality, so why can’t a real sport (which leapt from fiction) leap back into fiction? Also? That’s a lot of leaping …
THE REAL GOAL? TO GIVE YOU THAT “HOLY CRAP!” MOMENT
If I did it right, people who are familiar with Quidditch read THE MVP and had that “a-ha!” moment. You’re reading along, and you think to yourself “waiiiiit a minute here … is this what I think it is?” And then you see that, yes, it is what you think it is.
It’s a big, fat Easter Egg is what it is.
This approach to “meta” also serves to make characters spring to life in your mind. It’s one of my Jedi Fiction Tricks™. If you read INFECTED, there are scenes where Perry Dawsey is watching the TV series Columbo. If you’ve seen that show, this is a subtle technique where the character is doing exactly the same thing you have done – for a brief moment, it’s not a “character” at all but a person with whom you have a shared experience. That brief brush stroke makes Perry “real” for a moment, and that moment sticks with you. It shapes the way you feel about him, helps him transcend the page and become someone you think you know.
For the Prawatt, who are very alien and very like us at the same time, a species-wide fixation on something that is a cultural juggernaut helps humanize them. Sure, they are nightmarish boogeymen, but I’m pretty sure they’re wearing a Slytherin scarf when we’re not looking.