Part 1 of 2. Written in early 2015, so it’s a bit outdated in terms of J.K. Rowling’s current terrible antics (hello, don’t forget she is a TERF and constantly appropriating other cultures with trying to explain different countries’/regions’ wizarding worlds on the Pottermore website). However, sometimes it’s good to look back to reflect, and this certainly highlights my overall experience as a Harry Potter fan as well as the fandom I found myself surrounded by.
Featured photo credit goes to fadalalala.tumblr.com. I did not create nor own this drawing.
Clinging to stories remains a part of our world. It is how we choose to cling to them, though, that affects whether we actually live our lives or not. So says Albus Dumbledore, “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live, remember that” (Sorcerer’s Stone 214). What we obsess over and touches us on a deep level is a tool to allow us not to hinder ourselves, but truly to move forward, live, and love.
Enter the Harry Potter phenomenon. “Phenomenon” instead of “series” feels much more appropriate because of the way it manifested in the lives of people, even those who never had any interaction or experience regarding anything Harry Potter-related. However, my childhood and teen years consisted of pure blissful experiences and, more importantly, my identity of a culture with the famous—or infamous, if you prefer that—boy wizard. Harry Potter was not the first sequence of books to capture my interest as a young reader at eight-years-old, but it lingered longer than any of the other books I picked up, not only at that age, but also where I reside in my reading interests now. Some would classify me as a “fangirl,” but I prefer to think of myself as part of a generation of textual observers, a timeless community of readers.
Harry Potter is a set of books called a bildungsroman, or a coming-of-age story, that chronicle the life of an orphan boy who, upon discovering he is a wizard, attends a school dedicated to the magical arts. However, Harry and his friends are plagued by the presence of an evil wizard named Lord Voldemort, who has been out to get Harry ever since Harry as a baby took him down by unknown means, branding baby Harry with a lightning-shaped scar. That overview does not even begin to delve into the emotions and creativity elicited from the details in Harry Potter. Details propel readers to further appreciate the writing itself and expand on it. Through a communal love of reading the books and allowing imagination to produce newfound ideas and reflect on themes, the Harry Potter books sparked a culture of creators in promoting free-flowing imagination in fan writing.
As human beings, our minds are in constant conception, contemplation, and creation. We love making new things and expressing new ideas. What makes Harry Potter an ideal candidate as the spark of culture of creators is the amount of detail given as well as what is missing in the books. The author of the phenomenon, J.K. Rowling, weaves words in a way that gives a distinct picture but also leaves a lot of room for interpretation: “He swam deeper and deeper, out toward the middle of the lake, his eyes wide, staring through the eerily gray-lit water around him to the shadows beyond, where the water became opaque” (Goblet of Fire 495). Sure, for the Triwizard Tournament Harry must swim in the Black Lake and encounters grindylows and merpeople and the like, but there is still a lot of room to imagine what lies at the depths of said lake, since “[l]ight green weed stretched ahead of him as far as he could see, two feet deep, like a meadow of very overgrown grass” (Goblet of Fire 495). These examples do not lend themselves to any new fan creation as far as I am aware of, but they highlight how Rowling’s work is structured and detailed well—I mean, any book or series will have its random plotholes—but that does not mean there is not room to think beyond the boundaries of the wizarding world.
The books have spawned several different adaptations in the form of audiobooks, movies, and video games. Adapting the books but still maintaining the heart of the story often makes it seem that these adaptations are a part of the “canon” of the series; however, like fanmade adaptations, they do not consist of the exact story brought about in the books. Fanmade adaptations can be as professional as the movie franchise or as amateur as the audiorecording “Wizard People Dear Reader,” in which a man named Brad Neely drunkenly recounts the plot of the first installment, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, while at the same time parodying the story’s tropes in a light-hearted, enjoyable way. Before he initially encountered the first movie while drunk, he knew nothing about the Harry Potter series, but after marathoning the movies he realized there was something worth knowing there, something interesting of which to make audiorecording chapter parodies. Writing to make fun of the thing he had grown to enjoy was like poking fun at a friend because you love them. Basically, the movies take from the books, and the books, whether specifically or indirectly, inspire its culture of creators to manifest the story in different ways through the art of writing.
Some fans have taken it upon themselves to write about Harry Potter through both scholarly and creative pursuits. For example, a man named Dean O’Carroll wrote two stage parodies of Harry Potter, titled Sally Cotter and the Censored Stone and its sequel Sally Cotter and the Prisoner of Ala Katraz. Both I had the pleasure to perform in as the title character at Waukee High School in 2009 and 2011 respectively; Dean, as an adult, spawned a creation to express his interest and love of Potter, which excited us that our passion for the story was not only a silly trend for children and teenagers. Indeed, Rowling’s Harry Potter phenomenon inspired and continues to inspire many children, teenagers, and adults to grasp onto their own endeavors in explaining or presenting the series in a different light or lens, which is what first inspired me to delve into the art of writing. By first becoming a reader, I then desired to write, and Harry Potter fostered this within me. The way Rowling crafts the story instills a sense of intrigue in its readers who then spin that into their own creation. Her use of detail and voice works well with the cast of characters and the settings she employs. There is a truth to her writing I wish to replicate in my own. Specifically, paying attention to what she has to say gives me ideas to think about what I want to write: what am I trying to get across, and how did I come to that conclusion? Many fans of the Harry Potter series turn to fan fiction to fuel this flame to write; however, just as many that do that are the ones that turn to writing original works as well. In many cases, the intricate world of Harry Potter provides inspiration for emerging writers or artists. No matter what, an expression of creativity fosters more than just an idea—it tends to this specific culture, feeding them ideas to ponder on and approach from different angles.
Indeed, the influence of writing from the Harry Potter series stretches beyond writing fiction. Art (fan art) and music (such as wizard rock bands, or “wrock”) have spawned and really demonstrated just how far the influence of this culture stretches. Potter artwork is wonderful in its ability to vary due to the amount of interesting subjects, themes, and concepts that arise within the series itself. In 2011, just before the release of the final movie, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, I had the pleasure to attend a wizard rock concert for the original wizard rock band Harry and the Potters. The environment was beyond welcoming, consisting of a bunch of nerdy kids jamming out to a couple of middle-aged dudes dressed up as Harry Potter and singing songs like “Save Ginny Weasley,” about saving Ginny Weasley from the basilisk, and “This Book is So Awesome,” about how, well, this book (specifically the sixth book Half-Blood Prince) is so awesome. Being surrounded by the band and fellow fans gave me a sense of ease, that it really was not just about any one of us but rather us as a group, a collective community that draw from Harry Potter to inspire our artistic endeavors. The influence of music in the culture of Harry Potter is also apparent in the parody stage musical A Very Potter Musical and its sequels A Very Potter Sequel and A Very Potter Senior Year. These different outlets for Harry Potter fans demonstrate that fan writing stretches beyond and remains incredibly creative, especially during the waiting period.
“The waiting period” is that point in time where one is all caught up on the Harry Potter books, and later the movies, and must therefore wait the time out until the release of the next one. This can be excruciating and annoying, to say the least. These waiting periods come with a lot of side effects of which fans may not even be aware. For example, many fellow creators inspired from the Harry Potter series go through withdrawal, always looking for their next fix. So, they continually reread the series (and/or rewatch the movies). They obsessively search the Internet in search of news about Rowling or the movie actors. Most even take it upon themselves to buy replicas of Hogwarts uniforms or other character costumes and dress up for cosplay or on Halloween—I myself have been Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, and Bellatrix Lestrange on separate occasions, though that is not including how many times I’ve dressed up as each of those characters—and some even find it prudent to get replica wands and practice the spells out loud. I too have endured this side effect, and even got myself a light-up replica of Harry Potter’s wand so I can respectively practice the “Lumos” and “Nox” spells. More often than not, fans may produce more fan fiction or fan art during this waiting period time. My personal interests, though, lie outside the realm of the Harry Potter fan fiction world, just for the simple fact that I do not like to alter the series from the way it is. Despite this, I definitely encourage the creativity of others, so I occasionally delve into it to see what people are creating year by year. Indeed, even the spokesman of J.K. Rowling’s literary agency stressed the importance of fan fiction in that “[h]opefully the fan fiction will help people become writers in their own right,” as well as sentiments from Rowling herself, who remains “flattered people want to write their own stories” based on the Harry Potter world (BBC News). Though fan fiction did not shape my desire for this, the talent in the fanfic community grows every day as people discover and adventure in the art of writing.
[To be continued]
Harry and the Potters. “Save Ginny Weasley.” Harry and the Potters. Eskimo Laboratories, 2003, CD.
Harry and the Potters. “This Book is So Awesome.” Harry and the Potters and the Power of Love. Eskimo Laboratories, 2006. CD.
Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. New York: A.A. Levine, 2000. Print.
Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. New York: A.A. Levine, 1998. Print.
Waters, Darren. “Rowling backs Potter fan fiction.” BBC News. BBC, 27 May 2004. Web. 27Apr. 2015. <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/3753001.stm>.