Rowling published Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in 2007 as the final entry in a seven-part series, and to emphasize the finality, its last chapter jumps forward in time (to 2017) as Harry sends his second kid off to Hogwarts and reassures him that he’ll be fine no matter what house he ends up in. Every loose end is tied up: The book’s students are older, married off, in varied jobs that suit their personalities, with kids laboriously named after fallen heroes and departed friends. Even within the novel, it reads a little like “fan fiction,” the literary subgenre produced by devotees of existing series that often imagines future adventures and romantic pairings for favored heroes.
So it’s no surprise that Rowling never quite put the saga to bed after Harry Potter came to a close. In interviews after the publication of Deathly Hallows, she pointed out the subtext implying that Professor Dumbledore was gay, although within the books, it’s merely hinted at. In Q&A sessions conducted on Twitter, she routinely drops other pieces of information, some monumental, others ridiculously inconsequential (here’s Rowling describing the location of a bookstore within her magical world). Many of these snippets have come through the Pottermore website (Rowling even wrote a Daily Prophet gossip column as Rita Skeeter). It seems to keep the books’ most devoted fanbase happy, but it also adds to a swelling database of unwritten information that couldn’t find its way into the stories she told.
After all, that’s how Rowling made her name in the first place: writing books whose richly detailed fantasy world powered her storytelling. After finishing Deathly Hallows, Rowling wrote a few other books (one under her name, three under a pseudonym), but she seems drawn back to the extensive universe she created, and to fiddling away on its sidelines. Her efforts parallel George Lucas’s work on Star Wars, a film trilogy he finished in 1983 and took a long break from before returning to it in the mid-1990s in advance of a prequel trilogy.
Though Lucas didn’t write and direct every Star Wars movie, he was at its creative center, and when he decided to remaster the films using more modern special effects for a 1997 rerelease, he threw in scenes he’d previously deleted and used CGI to pepper in more creatures in the foreground of his alien landscapes, all to deleterious, distracting effect. Even worse, once his maligned prequel trilogy was released, he returned to the original films again, swapping in newer actors to have them line up with the creative decisions he’d made more than 20 years later. The original cuts of Star Wars are now harder and harder to find, and Lucas’s general influence has been so destructive that fans greeted the 2012 acquisition of the Star Wars brand by Disney with cheers, because it meant the movies were finally out of their creator’s hands. Lucas’s initial interest in adding detail to his world snowballed to the point where he was no longer taken seriously by fans as the creator of his own work.