The kind of success J.K. Rowling has seen with the Harry Potter saga comes along maybe once in a generation. Lord of the Rings spawned an entire fantasy movement, Star Wars ushered in a new era of space opera and Harry Potter has brought the concept of magic out of the nerd closet and into the mainstream. Obviously, there will be some people looking to ride those sparkly robetails. Some of them do it a little more gracefully than others, however ...
6Larry Potter and His Best Friend Lilly
Nancy Stouffer, an unpublished fantasy author from New England, came forward in the year 2000 to claim Rowling stole the idea for Harry Potter. Stouffer was positive that Harry Potter's appearance and the names of several characters were lifted directly from her children's storybook Larry Potter and his Best Friend Lilly -- which, to be fair, does rhyme.
Rhyming is illegal, right?
Off to Azkaban she goes.
However, Stouffer claimed to have more compelling evidence: She invented the term "muggles" years earlier in her novel Rah, for example, and that book included several similar themes and motifs later used in the Harry Potter series.
For instance, both books contained white males.
Now she had something: Warner Bros., Rowling and the court system all started listening. Before the process, Stouffer repeatedly went to the press, speaking at length about the damning similarities between Harry Potter and her source material, and she had signed contracts, published books, and dated materials to prove it. When it finally came time to reveal her concrete evidence, however, it was ... less than compelling: Larry Potter was the story of a little boy coming to terms with the fact that he has to get glasses. His friend Lilly helps to cheer him up. That was the extent of the "damning evidence" -- the names sounded kind of similar.
Stouffer was not deterred: She argued that because the names were so similar, both boys wore glasses and both had a character named Lilly, Rowling had stolen Stouffer's intellectual property. The problem was that the booklet only had one paragraph where the boy is referred to as Larry Potter (the rest of the time it's just Larry). So Rowling's lawyers did a little digging, and discovered that though the booklet was supposedly written in 1988, the paragraph with the word "Potter" was typed in a different font from the rest of the document -- a font that didn't exist until 1993.
Woops! Bet you wish you had a time-turner right about now, eh, Nancy? OH, NERD SNAP!
MacGuffins: Never leave home without one.
Needless to say, the case was thrown out. But there was a silver lining for Stouffer, in that her works have now finally been published. Much in keeping with her love of altering original content, she's since changed key details of the Larry Potter story, and also expanded the title of her other book, Rah, to The Legend of Rah and the Muggles -- because she's still convinced that you can retroactively have an idea first.
No amount of punching can fix what's wrong with this woman.