Leaky Con 2012 Spectacular: Potter Fandom Not Dead Yet!

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.


  1. David James says

    John, when you wrote that article, ‘Harry is Here to Stay,’ I thought…..ok, there will continue to be some small regional HP cons around the country for the “die hard” fans that just will not let go of Harry 5 or 6 years after the release of HPDH. Of course, there will be some of the colleges and universities that will carry the literary baton of JKR’s worldwide phenom with the HP saga and that will continue to grow.
    But……..Toni and I were not prepared for what we experienced at Leaky Con 2012 in Chicago! We walked into the beautiful Hilton Towers lobby on that Thursday and you literally could not walk through this huge entrance because of the Leaky Con attendees. It was like a huge pep rally before a major college football game! Crowds of HP fans singing “Star Kid” songs on the Potter saga, wand fight demos between fans practicing their HP spells for the skits to come.

    The opening ceremony was met with a cheer and screams from the Leaky Con fans when the HP actors, Star Kid, and Leaky Cauldron’s Melissa Anellie came on stage that I have not heard since watching old Beatlemania films.

    It’s all in our article friends.

    Is Harry Potter here to stay?

    I have to say Harry Potter is not only the literary phenom of a generation, I think this saga will be carried on inter-generational like Narnia and LOTR.

  2. LEAKYCON 2013 IS IN PORTLAND?!!!!!!!! Okay, I’m not usually much for caps lock, but seriously? That’s where I live and work and breathe and I was reading the beginning of this article thinking about how the West Coast needs some love… do they have a call for papers or anything? I don’t know much about LeakyCon… I’m so glad the love for HP is continuing into my adulthood, though. 🙂

  3. Carol Eshleman says

    SOOOO many Potter events!!!! I just can’t decide!!!!! Oh, 2013, you temptress!!

  4. Carol, you should come to Portland. We’re awesome here.

  5. Danica Contor says

    Why? Why when I’m trying to save money for grad school would the potter world be so cruel to bring LeakyCon so close!? I might have to go. 🙂

  6. Louise M. Freeman says

    A former student just posted about this one: http://camp934.com

    Louise, reminding the Hogwart Professors I was a First Class Girl Scout.

  7. JMU’s Emerging from the Pensieve conference has virtually no presence on the web. Just sent an email to Prof. Elisabeth Gumnioc to ask her if the gathering this year is only for paper presenters. In the meantime, a fun daily project is Cornellian Dan Cosgrove’s Pensieve, in which you receive daily reminders to remember events from your past. Here is the link: http://pensieve.cornellhci.org/ enjoy!

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