J.K. Rowling among the Inklings?
Lingwë – Musings of a Fish points out some similarities between J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books and the Inklings, especially Charles Williams’s War in heaven:
The title of this post invokes a rather well-known work of Inklings scholarship, Women among the Inklings (Candice Fredrick and Sam McBride; Greenwood, 2001). The book discusses, among other things, women on the fringe of the Inklings’ coterie: the members’ wives, friends, and fellow authors. A notable example is Dorothy L. Sayers, often mistaken for an Inklings or nominated by fans as an “honorary member”. J.K. Rowling is not discussed in this book — after all, her Harry Potter novels were still very new at the time Fredrick and McBride were writing it. And of course, Rowling was not a contemporary of the Inklings, so any (hypothetical) mention of her would have been off the main subject of their book.
The point about Dorothy Sayers is that she never attended a gathering of the Inklings, though she was a friend of some of the Inklings. But if attendance at the gatherings is what makes an Inkling, was Roy Campbell an Inkling?
Roy Campbell, the South African poet, briefly joined the Inklings in 1944-46. Lewis objected to what he called “Campbell’s particular blend of Catholicism and Fascism”, though Tolkien was more sympathetic. Carpenter states, erroneously, that Campbell had fought on Franco’s side in the Spanish Civil War, and had become a Catholic in the process. In fact Campbell had become a Catholic before the war, and it was the killing of Catholic priests and nuns by the Republicans (including the priest who had catechised him) that led him to sympathise with the Nationalist cause, which he supported with the pen, though not the sword. What Carpenter says of Tolkien, then, applied equally to Campbell, “during the Spanish Civil War, Tolkien largely sympathised with Franco’s cause in Spain, not because he approved of fascism but because he saw Franco as the defender of the Catholic Church against communist persecution.”
J.K. Rowling was neither a friend of any of the Inklings, nor did she attend any gatherings of the group. The Harry Potter books have in common with the Narnia series and The Hobbit the genre of being children’s fantasy, but I don’t think that is enough to make anyone an
honorary Inkling. The other Inklings didn’t write children’s fantasies, and some of them didn’t write anything at all.
The thing about the Harry Potter books is that they came after a dearth of decent children’s books. For a long time all you could get was R.L. Stein and the “Goosebumps” series, which were mediocre, to say the least. And now you have the “I’m a lovesick teenage vegeterian vampire” kind of thing which are as bad as the “Goosebumps” lot, though my son, who works in a bookshop, says they are now selling a lot less of those than of Harry Potter.
I think Neil Gaiman’s American gods and Neverwhere are a lot closer to Charles Williams than the Harry Potter books are, but I’m not sure that that would make him an honorary Inkling either.
I have, on several occasions, challenged people to try their hand at writing a novel in the same genre as the Charles Williams ones, and perhaps, since NaNoWriMo (National Novel-writing month) is coming up soon, this is a good time to reissue the challenge. And if you’re interested in discussing these things in more depth than is possible in blog comments, now is the time to join in the Neo-Inklings discussion forum.
Notes and References
 Pearce, Joseph. 2001. Bloomsbury and beyond: the friends and enemies of Roy Campbell. London: HarperCollins. ISBN: 0-00-274092-3, p. 186.