Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Potterificus Infinitus: Intro

Bel and Professor Sprout (me) at Infinitus
Belly dancers, Snapes of every flavor, OMG costumes, geektastic t-shirts, quidditch, "Bad Dobby" pins, drabbles, fangirling, meeting online friends for the first time, movie stars, great food, provocative presentations, "Professor, may I take your picture?", and music music music. I just returned from four euphoric days with 3,000 other Harry Potter fans at the HPEF's Infinitus 2010 conference in Orlando, FL.

This wasn't my first. I've been going to Potter conferences since The Witching Hour in 2005. That was the year after I started a website with a UK maths teacher Deborah Skinner named "Madam Scoop's Potter Pages" which indexed and paraphrased all of Rowling's statements in interviews about the details in her books. Within a couple months of the launch we were asked to be members of the popular "Floo Network," which at the time consisted of The Harry Potter Lexicon, Leaky Cauldron and Quick Quotes Quill fansites.

The Witching Hour wasn't just my first Potter conference, it was also the first time I had to navigate the "we met online but what are these people really like" dance that happens when avatars and in-joke member names give way to real faces and voices. I will never forget being in a bus terminal to pick up an online friend visiting from Finland and realizing that I had no earthly idea what she looked like -- I'd had such a strong mental picture I hadn't until then realized that I'd never seen a photograph.

Each Potter conference has its own flavor. The Witching Hour in 2005 was one of discovery -- the discovery that I'd stumbled upon nothing less than a shift in the way reading was changing, and the discovery that this book-centric fandom was making history. Dr. Henry Jenkins (then at MIT) spoke about how fandom had forced the movie studios to re-think their policies about trademark protection and be more tolerant of fan-created websites and communities.

I also learned that there was a pattern to a Potter conference: Welcome Feast, presentations, midnight movie/pyjama parties, wizard rock concert, a kick ass ball, and Leaving Feast.

Infinitus was no different. Here was my schedule this year:

Alex Carpenter playing for fans
Day 1
  • Welcome Feast
  • “When Fans Become Activists“ (Henry Jenkins)
  • “The Blair Witch Law Firm Discusses Wizarding IP Law” (Heidi Tandy, Rachael Vaughn)
  • Merlin's Circle Reception
  • Craft Fair

Day 2

  • “How Harry Potter has United a Fandom” (Jasmine K. Harrison)
  • “Seven Literary Keys to Unlocking Harry Potter: The Future of the Hogwarts Saga ‘Shared Text’ in classrooms” (John Granger)
  • “FTW: Fandom-Trained Writers:” fanfic writers turned pro: Naomi Novik, Karen Healey, R.J. Anderson, Ali Wilgus, and Sarah Rees Brennan will discuss making the transition between fanfic writer and published novelist, their writing processes and their feelings about fanfic for their own original stories.
  • “Growing Grassroots Projects in Fandom” (Heidi Tandy, Melissa Anelli, Andrew Slack, Edward Drogos, Matt Maggiacomo)
  • “Historical Hidden Key in Harry Potter: Why Witches & Wizards Went Underground after the English Civil War” (John Granger)
  • Night of a Thousand Wizards (a costumed frolic in the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter Park at Universal Studios).

Day 3

  • Keynote Luncheon - Franchise Creative Director for Electronic Arts’ Bright Light studio, Kelvin Tuite. Kelvin gave a behind the scenes perspective on aspects of Harry Potter video game creation.
  • Potter Pundits Live (John Granger, Travis Prinzi, James Thomas)
  • Night of Frivolity Ball

Day 4

  • Leaving Feast & auction
 More tomorrow about Infinitus Day One!

Potterificus Interruptus

Well. I've been gone a long time from this blog. What can I say? Job changes, mum's health, and fascinations new and old have all been very distracting. I'm still Pottering around, but have been posting more about it on Facebook than here.

However, I'm writing a report for O'Reilly Media on Infinitus, this year's HPEF conference, and will use the space here to try out portions of it.

By the way? Infinitus was really, really fun. More anon...