I’ve been holding back… Or, I haven’t deliberately, but there has been one thing I have neglected to tell you. I am a Harry Potter geek. There, I said it. If you want to know what the scar on Dumbledore’s knee looks like, I can tell you. The rules of quidditch? I’m your gal. Ask me how to de-gnome a garden, and I will give you a 20 minutes long lecture. Then again, many of the people reading this regularly wouldn’t be too impressed, because they are Harry Potter geeks as well. See, my internet network (internetwork?) begun with Harry Potter. But the story starts even further back. Prepare for the inside story...
It was the night before Christmas. Actually, it was probably not, even if my mother constantly complains she is late with preparations for the holidays. Anyway, she was out Christmas shopping and she did not know what to get me. This being my pre-workinginabookshop days, she decided to give me a book, which would always be a hit. That she landed on Harry Potter og de vises sten [and the Philospher's Stone] seems fairly coincidental.
I had only barely heard of Harry Potter before this, as it was right after its release in Norway which pegs it right before it became a major international success. It wasn’t even all that known in Britain yet (you know, according to JKR [Joanne Kathleen Rowling, duh!] standards. What I had heard about the book had not actually intrigued me all that much, so chances are I wouldn’t have picked it up had I not received it as a present (though, with the following attention circus I might have done so at a later time – even if I have managed to stay away from Twilight which is the only hype I can think of that is even remotely comparable). Since I had the book in my procession, however, I started reading it, and a whole new world opened up.
What drew me in at first wasn’t the magic or the orphan thing or even the boarding school (applications for which I’ve heard increased rapidly after the Potter-books became popular). No, it was the humour. Right from the start the Harry Potter books offer a comic twist that most likely is a big part of what has convinced millions of adults all over the world (as well as their children) to read the series of seven books. As I chuckled my way through those first few chapters, I had no idea what I had gotten myself into.
Once I had finished the first book, I craved for more. The problem was, it hadn’t been published yet. In Norwegian, that is. I was about 14, and I had learned English for three-four years. However, I was not yet at a stage where it came natural to me to speak it, or read it in large quantities. The books I had previously read in English were mostly those I already knew very well in their Norwegian translation, and many of these, even, were put away because I got tired of using the dictionary for every other word.
Having the carrot of getting to read the sequel to a book I loved, however, made all the difference. I quickly dropped the dictionary. What I couldn’t understand from context would have to wait – I understood enough to follow the story, and that was all that mattered. By the end of that book I could read English. I have read all the books in Norwegian translation as well, but always after having read the original (at least once) first, and always with a foul taste in my mouth (I have issues with the translator). Basically, reading the Harry Potter books opened up a whole new world of books to me.
I caught up with the British publication dates around book four (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, or GoF as us geeks know it), my favourite in the series. I read it twice the day (and night) I got my hands on it, and I have read it at least six or seven times after that. After GoF, however, I was stuck in the same pain as other Potter fans around the globe – the endless waiting. It was years between the last few books in the series. Oh, the torture!
Until then it had not occurred to me to share my expectations for the books with anyone. Several of my friends had read them (one is almost as big a fan as I am. But not as big a geek), and we discussed the books occasionally, but we were teenagers. Most of our time was spent discussing boys (and none of them were named Harry). This is where the internet opened up another new world to me. I found several fansites online, and I think I joined a few as well to feed the addiction the Harry Potter books had become. However, I was not very active in any of them until I found The Harry Potter News Aggregator (HPANA).
I don’t know how I came across HPANA, really. According to my member stats I joined the day before the launch of The Half Blood Prince (HBP). At this point I had already read the strictly forbidden, highly protected, don’t-you-dare-to-sell-it-before-the-release-day book as a result of my bookstore employee benefits (*evil laugh*). I was dying to share, but didn’t (something I still credit myself with till this day). But I was ready to join the debates I knew would arise as soon as the rest of the world got to read it as well.
The thing is, when you discuss something you feel so passionate about with people who are passionate about the same thing, it is easy to make new friends. And it is easy to overcome differences such as age, background, religion or political beliefs. Through our mutual love for the Potterverse (oh, come on! The universe of Harry Potter, of course!) I got to “talk” (type, technically. But you know, this is 2010. It’s socially accepted to talk online now. Which you, as a blog reader, probably is aware of. But I am pretending to address this to a sceptical audience, so it would be great if you could flaunt some prejudices…) with people from all over the world. Some of them I gradually came to consider as great friends. Some of them I have met in person (six and counting) over the years, many of them I keep in touch with on a regular basis. When I was going to the US it was one of my old HPANA buddies who tipped me of someone in her neighbourhood who might be interested in a tenant (they were). While I was there I was able to visit two additional HPANA friends. For the past few years I have cooperated with many of them in my writers group. If and when I finally write a book it will be largely thanks to the connections and inspiration I have gained from my acquaintance with Harry Potter in general, and with HPANA in particular.
Assuming my mother had not bought me that present all those years ago, I might never have read these seven great books. I might never have bothered to learn English well enough to be able to use it on a daily basis. Had I not been able to do that, my choice of education (95% of my entire curriculum reading on the university has been in English) would have been difficult. If I had gone to the US at all, it would have been a completely different trip. And chances are I would not have continued to nourish my dream of writing books. I certainly would not be writing this, since I only ventured into the world of blogging because I was already familiar with online forums as means of communication and because several of my friends – HPANA friends – were already bloggers.
To say that Harry Potter has changed my life would be an understatement. Thus I think it is appropriate to express a great, big THANK YOU to both JKR and all her minions. HPANA-buddies – I love you all!