Tuesday, June 2, 2009


This is why I love the Harry Potter fan community.

Just about everyone on the planet has heard of Harry Potter. It is one of the most beloved stories of all time. But simmering beneath the surface is another story. The story of the fandom.

In many ways, I believe the fandom represents the generation of kids (now young adults) who grew up with Harry. In fact, it could be argued that Jo Rowling did more than write a bestselling book series. It could be argued that Jo inspired and defined a generation.

There are hundreds of online fan sites, hundreds of fan fiction authors, and hundreds (yes-- I'm not exaggerating) of wizard rock bands. (If you don't believe me, check out this: wizrocklopedia-band-listings). But what is fascinating to me is how the fandom transcends their love for a story. When these fans get together, it's not just to discuss the literary merits of the books, have a pick-up game of Quidditch, or enjoy socializing at a Yule Ball. These folks are living the messages that Rowling models: promoting literacy, giving to charity, creating (house) unity.

For example, one of the top websites (The Leaky Cauldron) just held a conference (LeakyCon 2009) two weeks ago in Boston. In addition to the academic HP "experts," they also had big names like award winning YA author John Green (and his brother Hank), Cheryl Klein (an editor of the HP books at Scholastic), and Michael Goldenberg (the screenwriter for the Order of the Phoenix movie, as well as Contact and Peter Pan). Also, Jo Rowling and Scholastic donated a signed 10-book set of American Edition Harry Potter books for fundraising (the only such set in the world.) It was a huge event for fans. Thousands attended. It was organized and run by the fans who run the website-- median age: probably 24. And if that's not inspiring enough, all proceeds went to charity: Book Aid International and the HP Alliance (who raises awareness of Darfur and runs a book drive for Rwanda)!

Another example is the Wizard Rock community. Founded and led by the band Harry and the Potters (brothers Paul and Joe DeGeorge), Wizard "Wrock" bands tour the US, playing in libraries, schools, and bookstores to celebrate and promote literacy. Harry and the Potters, for instance, encouraged concert goers in the summer of 2006 to read some of their favorite books in exchange for toothbrushes (bearing their band name) with the receipt of a book report (that gets a huge "yay" from moms everywhere!), and wrock band The Remus Lupins' motto is "Fight Evil, Read Books."

So I was not at all surprised to learn of this most recent endeavor by a HP fan. Emerson Spartz started the largest HP fansite in the world (Mugglenet) in 1999 when he was just 12 years old. He is at the forefront of the fandom: appeared on FOX news, was parodied by Jimmy Kimmel, and co-authored a bestselling book about HP. And he was one of only two people invited by Jo Rowling to her home for an interview after the midnight release of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Now at the ripe old age of 22 (ha!), he has started a new website in reaction to a site that has been gaining popularity: FMyLife.com.

FMyLife.com is a site where people share stories explaining how their day was completely ruined. Tired of always hearing about negativity, Emerson and his fiancee, Gaby, launched GivesMeHope.com "where people share with the world their most hopeful, uplifting moments and allow others to draw strength from their experiences."

This is why I love the Harry Potter fan community.

They give me hope.


Aniket Thakkar said...

Yay, for all the HP fans! (Yeah yeah, that includes you too :D)

You give hope to our niche too you know, making us realize how beautiful life is. :D (Not quite often as I would have liked, but no pressure :P)

I remember all the quizez cum fights we had over HP trivia in school. Good days.

JK did start a revolution of its own kind didn't she?

Unknown said...

Do you know that I have never read a Harry Potter book? And I saw the first movie only. Don't ask me why. My mother was into it, and my kids, but somehow the whole thing passed me by and I never participated. It is fascinating to watch the hoopla though! Clearly it affected a generation, as you say, and in so many very good ways.

Aine said...

Aniket~ I have a theory about Idealists and Harry Potter...er, maybe less of a theory and more of a hunch (so INFJ of me :P )

I know, I know... I'm trying to blog more often. :( A bit of pressure is good. It reminds me that I'm valued. I've just been so swamped with the end of school year activities. It will lighten up soon (this week even), and I'll have more computer time. :)

Catvibe~ Erm, how do I say this delicately? GO READ HARRY POTTER!

Okay, now that that's off my chest... :P Seriously though, if you ever feel like reading the series, let me know. I have so much to share that would make the experience even more delightful. As I mentioned to Aniket, I think there is something compelling to idealists in the books. (Obviously all types and cultures relate to the story because there are so many layers or contexts in which it can be read.)

Anonymous said...

What's the name of the site about our days being completely ruined? ;) I'm a natural for that one.

GivesMeHope sounds much more peaceful. I should give it a try. I'll live longer.

Aine said...

Jason~ Oh, you! :P

Charles Gramlich said...

Although I haven't been involved in the fandom aspect, I did just finish the last of the Harry Potter books and I must agree, this was an oustanding story that worked on many levels. I'm feeling a little sad today that the series is over.

Aine said...

Charles~ Sadly, I've been feeling that sadness for about 2 years now. Crazy, eh?

But I'm glad that you enjoyed the series!

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

We are all fans here. Real good stuff going on! Thanks for sharing!

~ Lopa said...

came thru your blog while surfing... and HP name made me read it... ya one more HP fan... i read whole series and almost lived in that world those days leaving this real world... hee hee
i can read them again n again..!! :)

Sarah Hina said...

I, too, am in awe of the community and enthusiasm HP has fostered, particularly among the younger crowd. I've been getting that itch to start (again!) the series for my daughter, but will hold off a little longer. She has so much to look forward to, though.

I did check out the website you pointed to, and it's filled with wonderfully inspiring anecdotes. More importantly, they make you want to do something nice for someone in return. Unity, indeed. :)

Anonymous said...

I hadn't been following the fan sites, so thanks Aine. In my part of the world HP was responsible for getting kids to read, so it will always be one of my favorite series.

Aine said...

Kaye~ I'm always happy to highlight people who are making a positive impact. :)

Lopa~ Welcome! Yes-- again and again and again... :)

Sarah~ I wish I could relive the first-time reading experience! (Might even be worth a dose of amnesia... ;) ) But I understand wanting to hold back until she's really ready. Sometimes I wish I saved the books for our oldest until she could read them herself. But then again-- I wouldn't want to trade the precious memory of experiencing the girls' reactions to the story when I read it to them.

(PS-- Melissa Anelli just posted a very moving video on the Pottercast Youtube channel about the Iranian election, too.)

katcampbell~ You're welcome! And that's what makes the fandom's influence even more special to me. Many of the kids that are listening to the fandom "leaders" could easily have been the left behind, poor readers, struggling to finish school types. But thanks to HP they are readers and successful students who are now contributing to such positive global movements. Wow-- the power of a children's book!

Chris Eldin said...

My kids are just now getting into HP, and I may be reading the books along with them (having skimmed a couple but not finishing, it's something I've been wanting to do for a long time!)

Sounds like a terrific site!!

Aniket Thakkar said...

Hey! Not seen you anywhere for a while?

Hope all's good. You'll get your husband back in just a few days. :) :)

aditi said...

Oh I love HP, I am crrazy about him and so sad it all came to an end. I never want it to end I want a million books more to be written to last my lifetime!
I have read the books cover to cover a zillion times. My fellow coworkers find it funny, but I love getting trasported to another world.

I am so happy I found you since we share that madness :)