I wrote an article for Christianity Today this time last year, ‘Harry Potter is Here to Stay,’ in which I argued that the last Warner Brothers film in the eight part series was “the end of the beginning rather than the beginning of the end.” My argument, though, was not that Potter-Mania would continue to grow in the directions that it had already but that growth would be through the influence the Hogwarts saga has had on the imaginations of writers and artists of the rising generation as well the expectations of readers (not to mention the cupidity of publishers and filmmakers). I expected a drop-off, frankly, in fan gatherings and the intensity of discussions about artistry and meaning as media hooks such as book publication and film releases stopped.
And I don’t think I was wrong in anticipating this drop-off. Where I was wrong was in thinking, if not saying, that the true-believers in Harry Potter fandom would become less intense in their interest in all things Hogwarts. If anything, the evidence of this summer’s gatherings in St. Andrews (UK), Ireland, Orlando, and Chicago demonstrate that Potter-philes in even greater numbers than the past will pay to meet, talk, sing, and share in a remarkable variety of media and venues about their favorite Boy Wizard.
To grasp that, read David and Toni Gras’ Harry Potter Fan Zone review of the many events that were held at Leaky Con 3 in Chicago earlier this month, a gathering without an amusement park, movie release, or publication-in-the-wings as draws to participation that surpassed in number of participants and events the Leaky Con of the previous year that had all those draws (and the cheaper air fares and hotels in Orlando). Blogger Greg’s record of his experiences there gives you some feel for the near frenetic (but much better organized!) atmosphere of this magical congress for Rowling readers. Check out, too, the funny and thoughtful article in the Chicago Tribune, ‘Harry Potter Fans Create Magic at Leaky Con.’
I think it undeniable that the greater influence or wake of the Potter Tsunami will be in the stories being written post Deathly Hallows, much as Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings changed our ideas of what story was supposed to be about — a good argument can be made that Harry Potter is a fruit of that tree or ripple from that boulder dropped in the imaginative pond, given Ms. Rowling’s attachment to Middle Earth. Expect another generation (or three) of that ripple effect — or just look around you! As I explained in ‘Harry is Here to Stay,’ it is very difficult to understand the draw and depths of Twilight, Hunger Games, Chaos Walking, and now Divergent, without a firm grasp of Ms. Rowling’s literary accomplishment and tool box.
But Harry Potter fandom clearly isn’t going away. In something akin to the Trekkies of previous generations (who live on…) and abetted by the Internet, their love of this story and interest in all aspects of it continues to create outpourings of re-imaginings and opportunities for coming together to share this work.
I invite all doubters of this thesis to attend LeakyCon 2013 at the Oregon Convention Center, Portland, Oregon, June 27–30, next year — and a second Leaky Con 2013 at the Grand Connaught Rooms, London, England, August 8–11 that same summer (pictured staircase and banquet room). That’s right, Leaky had such success this year in Chicago they are going bi-hemispherical, Northwest America and Southeast UK, for two big bashes next year. The quantum leap made this year in organization and participation — for which, “Congratulations!” and “Thank you!” Leaky staff — makes me think they’ll pull it off professionally and at a great price. $150 is an inviting threshold most of us can cross.
And the vitality of Fandom is not just in its conventions (note the ‘Emerging from the Pensieve‘ academic meetup in October this year at James Madison University and Misti-Con 2013 next May, a relatively “intimate” gathering). Note as well the more eclectic possibilities. My favorite of these is ‘Wizards at Sea 2013,’ that bills itself as “A Tribute to One of the Greatest Stories Ever Told… on board Holland America’s beautiful Westerdam.” That’s right, a cruise ship vacation along the Alaskan coast with a Harry Potter theme. It’s July 6-13, 2013 – 7 nights — and it sails round-trip from Seattle to Juneau, Glacier Bay, Sitka, Ketchikan & Victoria, B.C. Read all about that here.
I’ll be writing about my experiences at LeakyCon 2012 when my four talks there are available online. Please share your thoughts below about Leaky Con 2012, though, right away, as well as what you think about upcoming fandom events, about the thesis of Fandom’s Vitality Unabated (FVA), or about fandom gatherings or creations not yet in existence you’d like to participate in (e.g. the opera adaptation, the television series, the Christo geographic tribute , how about a Rowling Ring-ling Brothers Crop Circle?). Is Harry Potter Fandom here to stay, even growing, or just a cult with no little vitality? I look forward to reading what you think, as always.