Warner Bros. is working to reboot Harry Potter as a streaming series, and it'll have to contend with its ingrained problems

Image: Warner Bros. 

On Wednesday, Warner Bros. Discovery unveiled some big updates to its streaming service. Come May, it'll drop the HBO branding in favor of just "Max", and we'll get a whole bunch of new content to look forward to in the next couple of years.

Amongst the reveals? An announcement that the company has ordered a new adaptation of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series, one that will run for 10 years, with each season roughly corresponding to each installment. (Presumably, the first couple of books, Sorcerer's Stone, Chamber of Secrets, and Prisoner of Azkaban would each get the book = season treatment, while the later entries will get multiple seasons per book, sort of like what they did with the two-part Deathly Hallows films.)

I dropped a mention in the last roundup about a report from Axios, which was all about how major studios have become increasingly focused on established IPs, which feels like a good tee-up for this reveal: Harry Potter is a major brand for Warner Bros., and after its Fantastic Beasts film franchise seems to have become mired (the studio had planned five films, but work doesn't appear to have begun on the fourth installment), it seems like the studio has opted to go back to the source material for a reboot.

I should be a bit more excited about this: I read the books countless times while I was in high school, helped sell the final book at midnight in July 2007, and really took to its story of an outcast kid who ends up saving the world along with his friends. I was never a huge fan of the films: the zany and quirky world that Christopher Columbus depicted in The Sorcerer's Stone and Chamber of Secrets was just too... twee. It felt too Halloween for me, although the later installments improved quite a bit.

A long-form series would allow for filmmakers to delve deeper into the stories, and I think given the approaches we've seen in shows like Game of Thrones, we'd get a world that matched up with the one that we saw in the books a little better, or at the very least, a bit more consistently.

I can't say that I'm terribly excited for this: the books and the original films aren't exactly that far away (Sorcerer's Stone debuted a little over 22 years ago, and Deathly Hallows Part II was 12years ago, and we've had the three Fantastic Beasts films come out since then), so it's not like these are fading from memory.

More pressingly: Rowling presented a story that warned against the dangers of fascism and evil, and that way to counter those ideologies are through principles of inclusion and a broad coalition of allies. Rowling hasn't really lived up to those ideas in her book: she's made her anti-trans views well known, and she's spent a good amount of time online promoting those views and their supporters. (Vox has a good explainer about the language and depictions she's used.) In doing so, she's amplified a lot of mis/disinformation around trans people, equating them to predators or rapists or criminals, resulting in plenty of harassment against trans people, and has further spread that ideology further, thanks to her platform. This comes at a time of some unprecedented rules targeting trans people across the US.

Amidst all of this, we've had plenty of people who've been able to say "We told you so," pointing to some of the darker points in Rowling's prose and storytelling. When Hermione Granger sets up what's essentially an anti-slavery club at Hogwarts, she's ridiculed by the main characters, and in a recent Forbes piece, Paul Tassi notes that there is a pretty consistent through line that the world that Rowling's set up features some pretty overt racism from the Wizarding community, even if some of the commentary around the game being about putting down a slave rebellion isn't entirely correct.

Ultimately, I think A Wizard of Earthsea author Ursula K. Le Guin summed it up best in an interview with The Guardian back in 2004: "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." [emphasis mine]

A continuation or resurrection of Harry Potter as a franchise is inevitable in my mind: it's one of those rare stories that broke out and gained planet-wide acclaim, recognition, and a dedicated theme park: there's no way that Warner Bros. will let it fade, long-term, just as Disney isn't going to give up on Star Wars or Paramount will Star Trek. We might get breaks, but there'll always be something down the road.

The question in my mind is, can you continue to build new stories or adapt the books in a way that  satisfies the existing legions of fans, that isn't simply something that's filling space (ahem), and which can differentiate itself from the existing Rupert Grint / Daniel Radcliffe / Emma Watson films? And can you, if you accept Le Guin's view as accurate (and I do) build such a story that improves on some of that meanness that's embedded in the characters and world? And can you do that with Rowling's involvement as an executive producer?

I don't know. I don't think it's worth speculating on whether or not this'll be a good or bad project, especially given that all that exists of it is a production order (Deadline notes that Warner Bros. is now looking for a showrunner). We'll see when we get something concrete, like a script, a cast, cameras, teasers, and a release date.

But I don't think quality will matter much to me personally if Rowling continues along her current trajectory of anti-trans rhetoric (alienating some segment of the book's fans with her rhetoric), and if Warner Bros. continues to sidestep the controversy. What's frustrating is that I don't know that this discourse has actively impacted Rowling in any real sense: we wouldn't get a massive, ten-season commitment from the studio if they didn't see it being a massive hit, Hogwarts Legacy seems to have sold pretty well, and while Pottermore (the Wizarding World's online sales portal) sales dropped by double digits, this seems like it has more to do with a post-pandemic drop off after a banner year, rather than because of what she's been saying online.

It's easy to dismiss the arguments that happen online as being inconsequential to a larger audience. Take your pick at any of the major controversies that take place online: most of them don't radiate out into the larger viewing / reading public. They're just not tapped into that discourse, see it as the occasion or just don't care enough to alter how they decide to spend their money and attention.

That doesn't mean that what happens online isn't consequential: look at the bigger picture and the impact of those fights ripple out like waves from a rock tossed into a pond. Halt and Catch Fire creator Christopher Cantwell put it really well: "This conversation is very real and very present and very pressing. You just have to actually pay attention, and be a human being with other human beings. No computers or internet is required for that at all in the end."

That neatly sums up how I think of the intent of the moral core of Harry Potter: be a good human to those around you. I can only hope that that message percolates out into whatever stories we have ahead of us.

Currently reading

I've started a new trick for myself that's helped me regain my focus on reading: I've been setting a time limit on my social media apps on my phone, which doesn't necessarily stop me from checking up on things, but it does add a useful bit of friction when I hit that limit.

What it's helped me to is remind me to stop with the endless scrolling in the "For You" tab on Twitter, and the endless scroll of videos on Instagram, and back to just checking notifications or the feed of people I actually follow. It's done wonders for my own personal mental health: it's so easy to get sucked into bouncing around whatever drama is unfolding or hate-reading some of the more annoying personalities on the platforms, all time that I'd rather spend with a book.

Here's what's on the list this week:

  • Asimov's Science Fiction, March/April 2023 issue: I've been picking away at a couple of stories here: Mark Jacobsen's "The Repair" is pretty interesting, and I was thrilled to see it in Asimov's: I published his story "The Wasp Keepers" in War Stories: New Military Science Fiction, way back in 2014.
  • Sphere by Michael Crichton: I wrote about finding this the other day, and when I sat down to read a bit to refresh my memory, I got sucked back into it. I love the premise, but something that I'm picking up now is how well Crichton structured this thriller, setting up the characters and situation neatly, in a way that really drew me back in.  
  • Yellowface by R.F. Kuang: Kuang's Babel was probably my favorite read of 2022, and I've been looking forward to seeing what she does with this one. I brought it along to read while my son was at practice, and got sucked into it. It's a fast, gripping read thus far. This one's hitting bookstores in May.
  • The Fabric of Civilization: How Textiles Made the World by Virginia Postrel: After writing Cosplay, I've been generally a bit more interested in the history of clothing and costuming and this book jumped out at me at a local library sale.  
  • The Terraformers by Annalee Newitz: I feel like I've been reading this forever, but I've been enjoying it, particularly the audiobook as I drive back and forth to work. Almost done!  

Further Reading


This is fun: some preservationists discovered the original ADR recording of the "Wilhelm scream", an easter egg that's popped up in tons of films over the years. (h/t Mark S.)

Amazon + MGM

Back in 2021, word broke that Amazon was working to acquire MGM, and quickly did so. One big reason appears to be the studio's catalog of material, which includes some high profile franchises like Robocop, Legally Blonde and ... Stargate.

Reopening the Stargate
Earlier this week, word broke that Amazon was in discussions to purchase MGM. If that goes through, it could provide a return path for the Stargate franchise.

Now, word's broken that Amazon is looking to start playing with some of those titles, and Amazon is considering a mix of films and TV shows for Stargate. This should be interesting, given that the franchise has three big shows under its belt: Stargate SG-1, Stargate: Atlantis, and Stargate Universe, in addition to the film from the 1990s, and a handful of made-for-TV series spinoffs.

There's been some hope from fans that whatever future the franchise would have would build upon those shows that would bring back some of the best-known characters, like Daniel Jackson and Sam Carter. But according to Joseph Mallozzi, who worked extensively on each of the shows, he and some of the other core members of those older shows haven't been included in those conversations. In all likelihood, it feels as though we're headed for a new take on the series. It'll be interesting to see what that ultimately looks like.


I rounded up a trio of big SF/F awards that came out recently: the BSFA, the Compton Crook, and the Philip K. Dick Award.

Some recent awards
Some excellent titles earned honors over the weekend

Blockbuster Complex

The New York Times film critic A.O. Scott stepped down earlier this year, and had an interesting chat with The Daily about the nature of criticism.

Blockbuster complex
An interesting listen from the NYT’s former film critic, A.O. Scott

Charlie Day, the fool

One of the shows that I can easily get sucked into is It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, in part because of Charlie Day's performance as Charlie Kelley. I've liked pretty much everything I've seen him in, and he just directed his first film, in which he's playing a mute man who's a dead ringer for a difficult actor. This has a stacked cast, and it looks like it'll be an excellent watch.

Hedging bets

News of a new Harry Potter adaptation wasn't the only news that came out of Warner Bros.' presentation this week: amongst the reveals was that the network gave an order for a first season of a new Westeros project, the awkwardly-titled "A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms: The Hedge Knight", which is based off of George R.R. Martin's three "Dunk & Egg" novellas (The Hedge Knight, The Sworn Sword, and The Mystery Knight), and it'll be set around a century before the events of Game of Thrones.  

After Game of Thrones came to an end in 2019, HBO was certainly interested in more projects, and put a whole bunch into development, but this wasn't in the first batch: it came to light back in 2021, and after the success of House of the Dragon, it seems that HBO is willing to keep the franchise moving along.

HBO is adapting George R.R. Martin’s Dunk & Egg stories
HBO’s world of Westeros might be getting even bigger. Variety reported yesterday that the network is working to develop a new series set in the same world as Game of Thrones based on George R.R. Martin’s Dunk and Egg novellas, which are set nearly a hundred years

GRRM shed a little more light on the project: the order is for a first season (initially 6 episodes, but that might change), and the first season will follow the events of The Hedge Knight, with the pilot written by Ira Parker, who worked on House of the Dragon. Martin also noted that given that they're drawing from some pretty concrete stories, "our goal is to produce faithful adaptations of those tales for the screen." It sounds like this is a little ways off: they're currently writing, and it'll be a while before cameras start rolling.

Interestingly, he also noted that some of the other projects, like the series about Nymeria and the Sea Snake are both in development, as well as some of the animated shows.

Latinx Sci-fi

If you're near Cal State Fullerton’s Pollak Library, there's a new collection of literature that you can check out: the U.S. Latinx science fiction collection. It's an attempt to gather up the growing body of work that's related to science fiction from Latin America. It sounds like an excellent start to a project, and it'll be interesting to see what research comes out of it (not to mention what books get added in the coming years!) There's a launch party on April 26th.


Captain Marvel remains one of the high points of the MCU for me, and I've enjoyed the Disney+ series Ms. Marvel. We're set for a return of those characters (plus Monica Rambeau from WandaVision) in The Marvels, which comes out in November. Marvel released a first teaser for the project earlier this week, and it looks like it'll be a lot of fun.

True Detective, Season 4

The first season of HBO's True Detective remains one of the pitch-perfect seasons of television for me. It's a slow burn mystery with some occultish overtones, with some outstanding performances. The second season didn't quite work as well, but the third was pretty good. I'll be really interested to see how this one plays out.