Harry Potter isn't over, but what happens when a fandom grows up?

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News Media Commentary
Title: Harry Potter isn’t over, but what happens when a fandom grows up?
Commentator: Elizabeth Minkel
Date(s): August 21, 2015
Venue: online
Fandom: Harry Potter
External Links: Harry Potter isn’t over, but what happens when a fandom grows up?, Archived version
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Harry Potter isn’t over, but what happens when a fandom grows up? is a 2015 essay by Elizabeth Minkel.

Subtitle: A visit to GeekyCon, which started out as a Harry Potter fan convention, reveals the way the generation who grew up with the boy wizard are turning their magical passions into real-world success.

Some Topics Discussed


For an entire generation, Harry Potter is a core text; for many, it’s the core text, formative not only because of its content, but because of the collective experience of reading it. The long waits between books, the midnight release parties, the broad cross-cultural anticipation that was near-unprecedented in the book world at the time: for the massive number of people who read them as they were first published, these things are tied up in our memories of reading the books, and our lasting interpretations of their words.
But while I was out chasing the Doctor across time and space, while other Potter fans were getting lost in an infinite number of fictional universes, the Harry Potter fandom lived on, and it morphed into something new. The wizard rock community blossomed; fan tribute and parody shows grew so popular that their creators and performers developed massive fandoms in their own right. And even after the final book and the final movie, brand-new readers were coming onboard. They came at the stories in new ways – with different collective experiences, a full set of films to compliment the books, and a creator who always has more to say about her world. The conversation around the series has shifted, but if anything, it’s simply grown more massive, a snowball picking up enthusiastic readers as it barrels down the hill. And for those readers who got picked up long ago, the lasting effects of Harry Potter fandom are making themselves known.
The woman behind GeekyCon is Melissa Anelli, and Harry Potter is at the heart of her origin story: she spent much of the 2000s at “The Leaky Cauldron” and wrote a book called Harry, A History. (I’ll never forget her interview with J K Rowling around the release of Book 6, the first time I heard someone asking the right questions rather than journalists squandering opportunities asking silly ones.) We talked about new Harry Potter readers, and old Harry Potter readers who have migrated to new fandoms. “Because the Harry Potter canon is whole, and people can just read it, they’ll feel all the same passion that we’re feeling, that the old-school fans felt for so many years when they were waiting for the new chapter,” she told me. “But then that kind of passion naturally lends itself to stories that kind of naturally branch off from it, like The Hunger Games, or Marvel: regular people rising to superhuman heights, or superheroes being very human. All of those stories seem to come of a piece and inspire the same kind of passion and excitement – they very naturally lead into each other.” Part of that networked passion comes from the way we communicate online today: we share bits of ourselves on social networks – and sometimes, if we’re amongst the right crowd, we share whole pieces. It’s different to the early days of the web, when we burrowed into niche corners. There are big entryways into the spaces on the web where people get excited about things, and one of them is still Harry Potter. “I think a lot of people feel like, “Oh, I love Harry Potter,” Anelli said. “And they go online and they find friends who love Harry Potter, they start following them on Tumblr, and they see them post about some TV show they like, Supernatural or The Vampire Diaries or a book they’re reading...I think that we’re all leading each other to the things that we love, because we’re all connected now.”