In the last year, J.K. Rowling has released two new novels (one under a clever pseudonym) and announced that she’s penning a new expansion to the Harry Potter universe in the form of a screenplay. What she’s not doing, however, is working on an eighth Harry Potter novel.
But it’s not terribly surprising that given a push in the form of a viral fake press release, Harry Potter fans wouldn’t stop to fact-check before celebrating reports that Rowling is writing the long-wished-for continuation of her bestselling series.
In April, a blog site called Story Carnivores posted an unsourced “official press release” declaring that Rowling had confirmed plans for book number eight. Featuring fake quotes from Harry Potter actor Daniel Radcliffe and the Editorial Director of Scholastic, Rowling’s U.S. publisher, the fake announcement declared Rowling to be “75% done” with the new novel:
Yahoo News and the New York Times today confirmed that J.K. Rowling is writing the eighth Harry Potter novel, and is already 75 percent done with the manuscript. Details on the storyline are hush hush, but Rowling is said to be revealing more about the upcoming HP novel later this very week in a press conference in Scotland.
Rowling is said to be disappointed to the reaction of her adult novel The Casual Vacancy, released last fall, which left readers worldwide perplexed and disappointed. She was discouraged particularly by the disappointment of the younger readers, who picked up The Casual Vacancy expecting another Harry Potter book. She wanted to go back and write a book that will be a treat to her fans all around the world.
The press release continues, but savvy readers might already have alarm bells: a real press release would have given us at least some details about the book, especially relative to the timeframe. The last Harry Potter book contains an epilogue set 19 years after the events of the book. The first question most readers would have about the eighth book, then, is whether Rowling has set it between the conclusion of the plot and the epilogue, or whether she would pick the plot up at some point in the future. This, after all, was the first question Rowling’s real press release answered for us when she posted to her Facebook in September to announce the upcoming screenplay for Fantastic Beasts.
Additionally, a real press release would hardly have focused on negative sentiment surrounding Rowling’s recent novel. Casual Vacancy, which was listed as one of the top 10 books of 2012 by Time, and has a different publisher than the Harry Potter series. For that matter, nothing in this hoax release originates from Harry Potter’s U.K. publisher, Bloomsbury.
Finally, there’s the little issue of the posting date: April 1.
But while this hoax is one we don’t need urban legend site Snopes to debunk for us, it’s easy to see how fans have been fooled. In the two months since Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts screenplay announcement, rumors of the eighth book have flooded various corners of the Internet, with the fake press release getting passed around Facebook and other social media platforms. The buzz prompted fandom websites like Mugglenet to issue rumor control, and led Snopes to actually debunk the rumor, pointing out that its origins date to well over a year ago, around the release date of Casual Vacancy.
After realizing the announcement was a prank, many fans confessed themselves heartbroken. It’s no secret why; this isn’t just any Young Adult fantasy series, after all. It’s Harry Potter, one of the largest publishing phenomenons in recorded history. These are the books single-handedly responsible for causing the New York Times to create an entirely new bestsellers list for Children’s and Young Adult fiction after Harry dominated the regular fiction lists at the turn of the century.
So it probably stings that the next decade is unlikely to see more Harry Potter books gracing our shelves and our bestseller lists. Still, disappointed fans can take heart: They have the new Harry Potter movie franchise to look forward to, along with, rumor has it, Potterlicious concoctions from Starbucks’ fabled “secret menu.”
Whether you’re hoping for the eighth book or for a letter from Hogwarts, one thing is clear: While the world may be devoid of new Harry Potter, we’re all still living in Harry Potter’s world.
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