Notes from Azkatraz, a Harry Potter Convention

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I’ve spent the past few days at Azkatraz, a Harry Potter convention in San Francisco.

It’s a pretty intense scene. Something like 1,000 (I’m speculating) Potterphiles in one hotel in downtown SF. You immerse yourself in it, and the whole non-Potter-related world just vanishes. I was going to say it’s like being at Hogwarts, but really it’s more like sticking your head in a pensieve and accessing the memories of someone who has only thought about Harry Potter ever, and nothing else.

Some random observations, before I hop a flight down to San Diego for Comic-Con:

— Downtown San Francisco is almost indistinguishable from midtown Manhattan except that they have different stuff to put on your sandwich at Subway

— The crowd at Azkatraz was very diverse agewise, but genderwise it skewed heavily toward women. I don’t know why this surprised me, but it did.

— There was a great panel on the history of Harry Potter fandom online, starring Melissa Anelli, founder of The Leaky Cauldron and author of Harry: A History. She made an interesting point, which is that because Harry and the Internet both became massive mainstream phenomena at around the same time, and because Harry fans are kind of amazingly determined and resourceful, they wound up establishing a lot of the rules and social forms of online fandom in general. Harry Potter fandom is now the template for all future fandoms.

— Harry Potter fans are really nice and friendly and clever. They also stay up too late and drink way too much.

— Snarry slash people (ie people who write fan fiction about Snape and Harry getting it on till the break o’dawn) are super-intense. Seriously that is one rich, rich subculture. Here, listen to “The Snarry Song,” it’s pretty great (it’s also NSFW).

— I can’t say enough good things about the conference planning. It was ultra-professional, everything ran like clockwork. And I was cosseted. Cosseted.

— Note to aspiring authors: it’s difficult to get people to come to your reading when they haven’t read the book in question and have never heard of the person reading it. People are just weird that way.

— There are only so many delicious, refreshing Harry Potter-themed novelty cocktails I can drink and still feel like a man. There is no hangover like a Felix Felicis hangover.

— The conference organizers did a clever thing, which was to hijack a channel of the hotel cable system and continually broadcast the Harry Potter movies for 72 hours straight. I watched Cedric Diggory die so many times!

— I was on a panel about fan fiction and intellectual property law, with four lawyers. Intellectual property law is complicated and very, very murky. You think the lawyers know the rules? They don’t. A lot of that law has apparently just never been made, because the relevant cases haven’t gone to trial.

Chris Rankin was here, who plays Percy Weasley in the movies. He is in fact a nice and regular dude, who hung out in the evenings despite the incessant squeeing from fangirls. He also did a karaoke performance of “Summer Lovin'” from Grease.

That’s not an observation. I’m just saying, it happened.