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Saturday, January 09, 2010

HARRY, A HISTORY By Melissa Anelli. London: Penguin, 2008

Some time in the late 1970s, I went with my family to the airport to wait for my aunt to arrive. It was going to be a long wait and I went for a browse in the airport shop. There, I saw a book called Star Trek Lives! which had been written by some women who’d been heavily involved in Star Trek fandom, right back when it first started in the 1960s.

I’d sort of known other people liked the series and had a vague memory of a campaign to keep it on the air, but that was all. After reading the book, I went off to find fellow fans and the local club and fanzines… Hey, I’d never dreamed that people wrote fan fiction to keep themselves going when there was no Star Trek to watch, or to answer questions for themselves and others – like, what happened in the Mirror Universe after Kirk and his friends went home? What kind of people are Vulcans in a universe where everyone is violent and nasty? What kind of society do the Klingons have? Star Trek Lives let me know that this sort of thing was going on, and what kind of activities fans got up to. For many years, I wrote fan fiction, went to conventions and hung out with fellow Trek fans, some of whom are still my friends.

When I opened Harry, A History, written by Melissa Anelli, American Potter fan and webmistress of the hugely popular web site The Leaky Cauldron, I found myself nodding in recognition. I’d been there. I, too, had found something that excited me and gave me something to discuss, that let me be creative. I’d made costumes, stitched tapestries and appliqués (one as part of a hanging for a children’s ward in a hospital), written dozens of fan stories and articles and zine reviews that led to professional writing. I, too, had been involved in charity fundraising ( still am – a bunch of Melbourne fans go out collecting for the Royal Children’s Hospital during its Good Friday Appeal). I, too, was familiar with fannish politics and the kind of fans who just don’t understand that this is fiction.

Melissa Anelli wasn’t one of the original Potter fans. She discovered the first book when her sister made her get a copy for light reading while shopping for university text books. While she enjoyed it very much, it took another couple of years and a job she hated to get her further into this universe. Somehow, she found herself becoming more and more involved, even taking time off work for supposed family emergencies to go to England when new books in the series came out.

In this very enjoyable and entertaining history of the American branch of Potter fandom, the author also tells how Jo Rowling managed to sell her first book and how many people promoted and supported her manuscript.

And yes, I think as a history of a fandom, it's a Potter parallel to Star Trek Lives!, though not as gushing, thank heaven.

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