In the nearly 20 years (dear lord that's basically three-quarters of my life) since I first read Harry Potter along with an entire swathe of my generation, those books and that world have become so utterly ingrained in my life and personal identity that I *LITERALLY* could not imagine the kind of person I would be now if I'd never read Harry Potter.
Who in the world would I be if I hadn't grown up wanting to be Hermione Granger (I related to her big front teeth woes like crazy & obvs the bookish obsession was a given)? Who would I be now if I hadn't spent a worrying amount of time creating a mock-up Hogwarts letter for my original character (I believe I called her Natalie Parker) who I may have written stories about or at the very least did a lot of imagining about. I am damn near certain that I still have that letter in a folder somewhere in this house. I have drawings in a sketchbook that are Harry Potter-related and you should know that I am *not* an artist and my art skills are damn near zilch. Would I have been making up stories to roleplay in the playground in primary school if I hadn't read Harry Potter? Quite possibly, I was *that* kid.
None of these expressions of fandom ever made it to the internet like happened for a lot of people in the Harry Potter fandom, I was never on the fanfiction or fan-art sites so it wasn't until I was a lot older that I really engaged with other fans outside of my real-life friendship group - believe me not many of the folk I was friends with in high school were on the same level of obsessed I was.
Weirdly it was Twilight that brought me into the online fandom experience, with my meteoric rise & fall of love for that series back in 2008. If you are in the handful of people that have known me and Jess for a long-ass time then you might have heard the cute-yet-hilarious story of how we met and became the inseparable & slightly eerie double-act we are today. But pretty much from that time I spent ignoring work at Sixth Form to spend hours on the computer trawling the Twilight Lexicon for god knows what reason, I have run to the internet to find people who love the same things I do and talk about them.
|Is this scarf all now a LIE??|
But thanks to this fandom I'm friends with people who also don't find any of those things I just mentioned strange! I can say to someone "I think so-and-so is such a Hufflepuff" and that has meaning even when a word processor will be side-eyeing me with red squiggles. Harry Potter has created a whole language and value system that transcends the pages that J.K. Rowling wrote and has been absorbed in the cultural mindset of my generation and God how I love that.
I know there are other fandoms which have a similar importance in other people's lives as Harry Potter has in mine and if the internet has been able to bring a fraction of the awesome friendships & life-changing experiences to those people then I am ecstatically happy for them.
We all should be able to surround ourselves with the like-minded people who share our passions and strive for the best future we can imagine ourselves being a part of and connecting to those people through fandoms is often a brilliant stepping stone to deeper & lasting relationships that will exist long after the source of your fandom ceases to supply new materials for you to obsess over.
Obviously in the case of the Harry Potter fandom, 2016 is the year we all power back up into ultimate Potterheads and lose our collective minds in the joy of NEW SHINY STORIES. I for one, will be sobbing unashamedly the entire time I'm watching the Cursed Child in August and also probably during the Fantastic Beasts film in November. How about you?