British Fiction Focus

J.K. Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Book of the Film of the Book

Hold fast to your sorting hats, my fellow muggles and No-Majs across the Atlantic, because “the publishing event of the year” has some commanding company!

See, in addition to the Special Rehearsal Edition of the script of the impending play, namely Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts One and Two—which, for what it’s worth, will be withdrawn and replaced with a so-called Definitive Edition at a later date—fans of J. K. Rowling’s wizarding world now have another new book to look forward to, as Little, Brown announced yesterday (alongside Scholastic in the States) that it means to release Rowling’s screenplay for the forthcoming film, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the day after it hits cinemas.

The thing is said to begin in 1926, with the character of Newt Scamander on the last leg of a world tour to find and document an extraordinary array of magical creatures. “Arriving in New York for a brief stopover, he might have come and gone without incident,” the story goes, “were it not for a No-Maj (American for Muggle) named Jacob, a misplaced magical briefcase, and the escape of some of Newt’s fantastic beasts, which could spell trouble for both the wizarding and No-Maj worlds.”

Fantastic-Beasts-BookThough Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is inspired by the tiny metatextual textbook written by Rowling under Newt Scamander’s name and released by Bloomsbury in 2001 to raise money for Comic Relief, Little, Brown CEO David Shelley insists the film and so forth the screenplay—in fact the first composed by the world’s richest writer, as Harry Potter and The Cursed Child Parts One and Two is basically Jack Thorne’s baby—tells an “entirely new story.” Shelley is also “incredibly excited to be publishing” it, because of course he is! Who doesn’t want a train full of trunks full of money?

That said, exactly how Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them will be received by the rest of us is very much an open question, following the release of a Rowling’s have-a-go ‘History of Magic in North America’ back in March, with respect to which our own Chris Lough wrote “oh no,” and also all this:

For an author who has proven consistently deft and imaginative in her worldbuilding, ‘History of Magic in North America’ is a surprising stumble. Did Rowling simply not do the research? Or, since this arguably the first time Rowling has worked in a global scope, did she not realize the necessity of doing that research?

Only time will tell! But if I’m honest, I don’t have high hopes. The Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them film is out worldwide on November 18, with the physical edition of its screenplay to follow a day later—right alongside the digital edition, published globally by Pottermore.

Niall Alexander is an extra-curricular English teacher who reads and writes about all things weird and wonderful for The Speculative ScotsmanStrange Horizons, and Tor.com. He lives with about a bazillion books, his better half and a certain sleekit wee beastie in the central belt of bonnie Scotland.

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