Or, Why I’m a Proud Ravenclaw and Not Crazy About the Books
How far down the rabbit hole?
The question typifies the crazy, weird, multi-faceted thing we call fandom. It goes all the way from book-club type discussions and some cute stickers for your laptop, down into a twisting tangled warren of AUs and headcanons and fanfic and fanart and cosplay, a whole world springing up around… well, an imaginary world.
And the really interesting thing, at least to me, is that once you get past the lightest layer of fandom, things begin to develop a life of their own. Book-length fanfics tie together a whole alternate universe where these characters are, in the end, quite different than the original book. The gorgeous fanart doesn’t fit in quite right anywhere in the books, not with the cross-over headcanon they’ve added, but somehow personifies this character in a way you haven’t seen before. The inside-joke quote on your merch may not even be part of the original canon… but everyone in your online fandom knows what it means.
And it’s really cool. All these people, brought together by a common interest, building a world together. Taking their enjoyment of a set performance and turning it into creativity. A lot of people look down on it, as not ‘real creativity’, because you’re launching off something somebody else wrote/performed. Or they think it’s silly that anyone would get so involved in a fictional world. And problems like that are always based in the real world; but I don’t think it’s all like that.
That place – not anywhere quite ‘official’, not anywhere that’s ever going to be pinned down or acknowledged – is not only a base of friendship and connections and creativity, shared enjoyment and common work, but it can be better than the original books.
Hogwarts is like that for me. J.K. Rowling isn’t the best writer, but she has her strong points; worldbuilding being the main one in my opinion. I think the Harry Potter fandom is so strong and verdant not so much because her books are the best thing ever, although it is a pretty fun series, but because they gave us a world we want to live in. A quirky magic school rife with possibilities, intrigue adventure and magic. I don’t keep Ravenclaw merch because of Luna Lovegood, the biggest ravenclaw character in the books; not even, exactly, because of the ravenclaw house portrayed in the series. I love it because of a slightly different Hogwarts, one built out of headcanons and fanfics where there’s real equality and friendship between houses, a place where my school life would be one of witchcraft and wizardry.
Harry Potter is only one example of a deep-laid fandom – the one that I, personally, know best. I haven’t gotten into Star Wars as much myself, but that’s certainly another one where whole worlds have grown up behind the films. They’re all over the place, if you know, where to look, and you know what? For the avid readers, the ones who, like I used to, generally scorn such “not-real” things as fanfic… it might be worthwhile to checkout the rabbit hole.