Tuesday, December 25, 2007

How the Boy Who Lived Stole Christmas

The mood was grim as the heads of the major videogame manufacturers, toy manufacturers, film studios, and television networks met that December. Sales were down across the board. Black Friday had been a severe letdown, and so had all the shopping days before Christmas.

"Videogame sales are in the toilet," confirmed the head of Nintendo.

"Ratings have dropped, and they're still dropping," confirmed the head of NBC. "Even on Saturday mornings. Especially on Saturday mornings!"

"Toy sales are down too," reported the head of Hasbro. "Except," he added darkly, "for Harry Potter tie-ins."

The other corporate executives all winced at the name. The head of Sony snarled (in Japanese, with inexpertly translated subtitles) "You dare speak that name among us?" ("All your Potter are belong to us!")

"Gentlemen," said their leader, the chairman of the Association of Global Conglomerates, "we cannot afford to be squeamish. We all know the source of our problems. Books!"

There was another round of wincing, but nobody dared speak against the chairman of the AGC.

The chairman continued, "We all thought that we could weather the storm. We all thought that when the last of those books was published, everything would go back to normal. But we were wrong. They started buying other books: Terry Pratchett, Piers Anthony, even L. Frank Baum. L. Frank Baum, for heaven's sake! And there are plenty more where they came from! Gentlemen, we must face the harsh facts: our children are reading." As the others averted their eyes in horror, the chairman savagely repeated, "Reading! Reading books! Little black letters on white pages! With spines! And covers!"

The head of MGM/UA cried out in horror and fainted dead away.

"But what are we to do?" wondered the head of Sony. ("You have no chance to survive make your time.")

"We have no choice," said the chairman. "We must make the ultimate sacrifice."

"You don't mean . . . " cried the head of ABC.

"I do!" insisted the chairman. "We must cancel Christmas! We must make the world understand the price to be paid for this unnatural habit."

The other executives mumbled, but in the end the chairman had his way.

On Christmas morning, in gated suburbs throughout America, loudspeaker trucks fanned out, broadcasting the message: "ATTENTION CHILDREN OF AMERICA! ATTENTION CHILDREN OF AMERICA! CHRISTMAS HAS BEEN CANCELLED BECAUSE OF HARRY POTTER! REPEAT, CHRISTMAS HAS BEEN CANCELLED BECAUSE OF HARRY POTTER!" On every channel of every television the message was repeated. Christmas was cancelled. And Harry Potter was to blame.

On every street corner, in every small town and suburban subdivision and urban neighborhood, mourning families gathered with their handfuls of Harry Potter, of Xanth, of Discworld, of Narnia, and stacked them neatly in piles on the sidewalk. Gasoline was poured, matches and zippo lighters flared, and the skies of America were filled with greasy dark clouds.

A year later, Black Friday dawned bright and early across the country. Box stores threw open their doors, but the expected flood of customers failed to materialize. That evening, the heads of the Association of Global Conglomerates gathered at a secret emergency meeting. All looked at the chairman for an explanation.

"We thought everything would return to normal once we took away their books," he said, his expression that of a man numbed with horror. "We were wrong. They haven't stopped reading. Instead, they've started writing their own stories. The internet is clogged with them. Ficblogs, they call them."

"Can't we do something?" asked the head of Sony. ("Take off every 'ZIG'!!")

The chairman shook his head. "We'd have to shut down the internet, and we can't. We can't! We'd be cutting our own throats." He signed. "We'll just have to learn to adapt. Start selling pens and paper, maybe, with advertising. Or marketing tie-ins." He tried to sound brave, but he knew as well as the rest that the world had changed, and there was no going back.

Harry Potter had triumphed.

No comments: