In the last of this series of posts on Fictional Fiction, I look into those famous authors whose invented books in their best-seller series were just too good to leave undeveloped. Part 1 of this series is here, and Part 2 is here.
How to Train Your Dragon by Professor Yobbish (A.k.a. Cressida Cowell) – A Very Brief Book
Cressida Cowell had a huge hit with her book series, How to Train Your Dragon, especially after the movie versions were released in 2010, 2014 and 2019. In the book, the author writes about “Hiccup” and “Fishlegs” finding the training manual which the author says she is including in its entirety. The price of this trove of invaluable information is: “1 smallish chicken, 20 oysters”:
“Hiccup and Fishlegs found the book tucked away in the fireplace, practically in the fire. Hiccup had never noticed it before. He opened the book. (I have included a basic replica of How to Train Your Dragon, by Professor Yobbish, here – in order that you can share the experience of with Hiccup of opening that book for the first time, full of hope, and interest and expectation. You will have to image that the cover is unusually thick, with huge golden clasps, and that some scribe has covered it in elaborately fancy gilt lettering. It looks very inviting indeed.)”
After all of that hype, the manual simply says;
“CHAPTER THE FIRST (AND LAST)
The Golden Rule of Dragon Training is to…
YELL AT IT!
(The louder the better.)
So, despite being “included” in the novel, it is not a real book. Sorry, everyone who ever wanted to train a dragon. If, on the other hand, it is really only a matter of yelling loudly, well, then one might consider it a book.
Harry Potter, by J.K. Rowling – Fully developed spin-offs
In “Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry” in the Harry Potter books there are too many books and handbooks to mention – it’s a school after all. But of all the books used by “Harry Potter” and his friends, only three have been extracted from the pages of J.K. Rowling’s novels, and written and published as standalone books. These are Quidditch Through the Ages by Kennilworthy Whisp (2001), Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by Newt Scamander (2001), and The Tales of Beedle the Bard (2007, 2008).
These are the only internal books from the Harry Potter Series that J.K. Rowling developed into a collection of full books called The Hogwarts Library. The others, for instance Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, were published as screenplays. For people who are desperate for more “Harry Potter” books, you can go and buy these – they might be aimed at children, but from the high production values, and the in-depth development, they will also be enjoyed by adults.
The Discworld Series, by Terry Pratchett – Quite a few added to the many
When Sir Terry Pratchett died in 2015, the last Discworld novel to be published was The Shepherd’s Crown, posthumously. Though he left many unfinished texts and book ideas, the custodian of the his works, his daughter Rhianna Pratchett, announced that The Shepherd’s Crown would be the last Discworld novel, and that no further works or books of unfinished work would be authorized for publication. So, whatever internal novels were produced in Sir Terry’s lifetime are all there is. He did write a tremendous number of additional books about Discworld – from maps to science books, and remember also that Discworld was not the only series he had written – his output was prodigious.
He wrote three books as actualizations of books referred to in the Discworld novels, and since they were written by him, in his lifetime, they are very real, completely produced works:
- Where’s My Cow? This is the children’s book by the “Ankh-Morpork” author, “Miss Felicity Beedle”, which “Samuel Vimes” reads to his son, “Young Sam” in Thud! by Terry Pratchett. Note that on the cover there is the seal of approval, the “OOK!” from the “Librarian” from the “Unseen University” in Ankh-Morpork. And as he is a librarian, he should know a good thing when he sees it.
- The World of Poo. This is also by “Miss Felicity Beedle”, and is an explanation for children of the different kinds of poo – since kids are fascinated by it. In Snuff by Terry Pratchett, “Young Sam Vimes” calls this his favourite book. It leads Young Sam to develop a nose for investigation like his father, which “Commander Vimes” finds both worrying and gratifying.
- In Pratchett’s Maskerade, the witches “Granny Weatherwax” and “Nanny Ogg” visit the Ankh-Morpork Opera House to find/rescue “Agnes Nitt”, a girl from Lancre. At the same time, Granny Weatherwax wants to persuade the publisher of Granny Ogg’s successful cookbook, The Joye of Snacks, to pay Nanny Ogg her share of the revenue from the best seller. The Joye of Snacks contains recipes, but the sort of recipes that actually act as aphrodisiacs. So, obviously, it would’ve been a bit saucy, pardon the pun, for Pratchett to produce that particular cookbook. In stead, he produced Nanny Ogg’s Cookbook.
“Nanny Ogg, one of Discworld’s most famous witches, has decided to pass on some of her huge collection of tasty and exceedingly interesting recipes. In addition to the delights of the Strawberry Wobbler and Nobby’s Mum’s Distressed Pudding, Mrs Ogg imparts her thoughts on life, death, etiquette, courtship, children and weddings, all in a refined style that should not offend the most delicate of sensibilities. Well, not much… Most of the recipes have been tried out on people who are still alive.” (Book blurb, amazon.com)
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Doublas Adams – Overtaken by technology
The famous guide with the words “Don’t Panic” on its cover is the ultimate guide to letting hitchhikers get to see the galaxy on less than thirty Altairian dollars a day. It is not very useful to “Ford Prefect”, “Arthur Dent” and other hitchhikers since the entry on Earth is limited to “Mostly harmless.” Douglas Adams described the reference work as a small, handheld calculator containing a database of entries. It was never depicted as a printed book since it was just too large. The publisher’s offices were so large they required a planet all of their own. The fictional guide is part of Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (shortened to H2G2) series of novels. It is specifically mentioned in Adams’ Life, the Universe and Everything (1982) and So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish (1988).
In the late 80s, techno-geek Adams visualized the H2G2 as a forerunner to what eventually became Wikipedia and other online reference works that are created and moderated by users. He started an online H2G2 – Earth Edition in 1999. The encyclopedia has now been overtaken in popularity and sustainability by resources like Wikipedia.
“A collaborative guide, one that was written and kept up to date by the people who used it, in real time, might be a neat idea. I just didn’t really realise that such a thing might be possible in my lifetime or how powerful such a thing might be.” (Douglas Adams on H2G2)
The entries are partly serious, partly written in jest. The website now looks a bit dated, but for die-hard fans it’s worth a visit.
To reiterate, these works of fictional fiction exist either as actual works, dummies or reinterpretations as a response to readers wanting more or being relentlessly inquisitive. Sometimes it is just to make money. But it goes to show just how real fiction can become in people’s minds, and is proof that readers of successful fiction often make the characters and worlds the authors have created their own. Author Josiah Bancroft puts this situation into perspective, referring to both the “fans” and the “roadies”:
“Of course, there are those who are not just excited to see the continuation or conclusion of a story they are enjoying. There are a few who are impatient, entitled, and demanding. And those relative rarities, I’ve come to understand, are persons who it’s best to ignore. And again, in my experience the majority of readers have been polite, pleasant, and understanding. I feel very fortunate.” (Josiah Bancroft interview)