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July 26, 2007

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Glenn,

You're a faster reader than I am. I still have 300 pages and I am savoring it. I've been using it as an excuse to eat candy and ice cream (comfort foods for reading).

I actually went to a Harry Potter conference in May, held in New Orleans (as a consequence of an article I wrote on HP for the Journal of Popular Culture). This was an academic conference, not a convention. Still, it was surprising to me to see middling-aged professors present their papers dressed as witches and warlocks (I wore no such costume myself). It was even more surprising when I had a hurricane at Pat O'Briens with a friend and spotted a table full of people in Hogwarts uniforms, drinking beers and smoking cigarettes. I'm sure they were butter beers.

What struck me most was how much of the conference was driven by the concept of fanon. Fanon is a play on the word canon, not a reference to the anti-colonialist intellectual Frantz Fanon. Canon refers to all the details that have been poured into the HP series, plus any additional insights that Rowling has given on her website or in interviews. Fanon refers to an even more massive body of fan-produced works, from short stories to self-published novels, from epic poems to beautiful paintings, that attempt to take the world of Potter in new directions. As fanon-producers put it, fanon is not in the same unverse as canon. It is more a set of alternate parrallel universes where anything can happen. Much of what happens in fanon would be quite shocking to the average reader (I'll leave that to your imagination) but on the whole what fanon demonstrates is just how much agency Potter readers feel they have. They not only feel compelled by the novels, but they also feel empowered to produce works of their own. It is, I think, a testament to the series itself--the Potter canon.

Thanks for these links, Glenn. I'm a huge fan of Harry, and loved the final book more than I can say. What a gift!

Fyi, the fan fiction thing has been going on with Jane Austen's works for years and sounds very similar Perhaps that's to be expected, since Austen's been around for so long, but interesting to see the same thing happening in the Potter sphere. I know that's one of Rowling's fears -- one of the reasons she seriously considered killing off Harry, so no one else could continue the story.

Dustin,

Interesting concept, fanon. Had not heard of it previously, but I like it. While I personally would not write nor read stories that continue the Harry story chronologically beyond Deathly Hallows (no good reason, just personal preference), I have been thinking of writing my own piece on a facet of life for the characters that takes place "off camera" in the current canon.


Glenn,

What you're talking about is one of the more popular forms of fanon. Many of the people in these fanon communities (largely online communities) think that extending the stories, or imagining what happens in other parts of the wizard world, is easy. The real trick is working from something actually in the stories and making it fit perfectly into the larger whole. So, for instance, if a character disappears for a few chapters, but comes back appearing to have done something important, then you could imagine what happened. One of the more prized tricks in fanon is to work from the language of the text to make it seem as if the new story was always part of what Rowling intended.

I still have a long way to go in the novel. I'm ignoring the new potter post but look forward to reading it when I finish the book.

Glen, I know you know this, but not all fundamentalists are Harry Haters! and not all Harry Haters are fundamentalists. :)

I'm still making my way through the books this summer, but I already have my copy of Deathly Hallows. I'm also enjoying listening to Jim Dale's audio of the books.

I will say it's disheartening to hear from the Harry naysayers, especially those who haven't even made an attempt to read before condemning. I'm really puzzled and frustrated by those types of discussions on this subject.

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