Originally Posted by teh603
Potter may have been mediocre, but it did breathe new life into fantasy the way Star Wars helped sci-fi. I doubt we'd have had the wide spectrum of fantasy available today if she hadn't published it.
Sometimes a mediocre work at the right time is better than a masterpiece at the wrong one.
I believe the opposite is true. At a given moment, any number of people might be at work on the same idea, unaware of one another and approaching the idea with different styles and levels of talent and finesse. The moment that one of their efforts breaks through, the rest are relegated to minor status at best, as if they'd been imitations.
An example of this is Tarantino's Jackie Brown, which isn't awful, but which prevented better films from being made. At a certain point in the 90s, there was a buzz about blacksploitation films and studios and producers all wanted to make the quintessential update. Directors from that time were being tapped (such as Melvin Van Peebles), but so were a lot of younger African-American directors and actors. Entire strata of people who wouldn't be given another shot for at least a decade were looking forward to their moment.
Then Tarantino released Jackie Brown, which bored a significant number of people and didn't do terribly well. That moment of opportunity for all those burgeoning talents closed, not to be seen again at that pitch of cultural anticipation.
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It's quite possible that if Star Wars and the Potter books hadn't existed, something better or worse might have taken their place. And since I can't imagine anything worse than Star Wars, I have to assume the alternative would have been either better or merely as bad.
George Lucas erased the abstract play and forbidding beauty of science fiction and replaced it with stuffed animal people and the intergalactic Superbowl. We went from the delicate mechanisms of some vast future chess game to droolers in sports bars rooting for their team.