On Monday, Potterheads around the world rejoiced as they celebrated Harry Potter's 20th anniversary. Yes, 20 years ago, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone was published in the United Kingdom before migrating over to the United States a year later in September. As any fan can tell you, the books have given us everything from laughs to tears, quotable lines to unforgettable characters, beloved 'ships and vomit-inducting noTPs, and everything in-between. Essentially, Harry Potter gave many people a childhood and defined the childhood of many others, especially the deeper you go into the fandom. So, on this day, it's appropriate to reflect on the Harry Potter fandom things that have changed from when these books were still coming out one by one.
Thinking about these books, talking about these books, and creating art inspired by these books is a still enduring component of being a Harry Potter fan, no matter if you do one or all of those things. But the way we celebrate our love for the series has certainly changed ever since we read that final "all was well." From midnight book releases in full costume to Big Name Fans to getting into 'ship wars on the internet, it's clear that the more things change about the Harry Potter fandom, the more they stay the same.
1. Midnight Book Releases
One of my biggest regrets in life is that I never attended a midnight book release in full costume. Oh, don't get me wrong. I attended at least two midnight book releases, for Half-Blood Prince and Deathly Hallows in particular. And there are definitely still Harry Potter events at bookstores across the country, usually during the day. But the nights of dressing up like Hermione to go to a midnight party at the bookstore with your mother at the end of which you get a new Harry Potter book are over.
2. Guessing The Upcoming Book Titles
Remember when all of those rumors were flying around that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows would be called Harry Potter and the Pyramids of Furmat? There will be no more guessing the next Harry Potter book's title, unless J.K. Rowling decides to write that Marauders prequel we've all been asking for.
3. Active 'Ship Wars
I think we can all agree that 'ship wars will never die. But I remember the days before the release of Half-Blood Prince, when the Romione (Ron Weasley/Hermione Granger) and Harmony (Harry Potter/Hermione Granger) 'ship wars were akin to a civil war happening in the fandom. Lines were drawn in the sand. People's mothers were insulted. Ginny Weasley was being sidelined as a contender even harder than she was in the films. Things got wild. Nowadays, we all stay in our lanes and don't make a whole flame war out of it — unless JKR gives another interview saying that Harry and Hermione would have made the better couple.
Speaking of which...
4. Writing 'Ship Manifestos
OK, listen. You can actually find several essays that I wrote in support of Harry Potter and Hermione Granger as a romantic couple on the internet, if you know where to look. I won't tell you where to look, but I will tell you that if you collected all of them together then I've totally written a whole book just on this subject. Because writing a 'ship manifesto to convince more people to 'ship your 'ship was a Harry Potter fandom staple. Now, not so much.
5. Accidentally Getting Characters Insanely Wrong In Fanfiction
Do you remember where you were when Sirius and Bellatrix Black was a rare pair because no one knew they were related? Or when a section of the fandom thought that Blaise Zabini was a white girl? Or when Remus and Sirius seemed like a genuine canonical possibility (and not just in my head)? Now, everything that we don't know is revealed on a slow release from JKR's Twitter — whether we want to know or not.
6. Active Fanfiction Archives (Divided By 'Ships)
Gryffindor Tower was where you went for your Hinny (Harry Potter/Ginny Weasley) fix. The Sugar Quill had OBHWF (One Big Happy Weasley Family aka Romione and Hinny) and other canon pairs on display. Pumpkin Pie and Portkey had all things Harmony (and, in the case of the latter, Draco/Ginny, Ron/Luna, and Lily/James). FictionAlley had some of everything. Some of these archives are defunct now, but, let's be real, it's all about AO3 these days anyway.
7. Non-Alternate Universe Fanfictions
When the Harry Potter world was an open sandbox that was still being constructed, fans could freely write fanfics set after the most recent book that were canon until the next book came out. Now, anything you write is an AU fic by default. Anything. And even more fanfics are becoming AU as JKR fills in the blanks on Twitter.
8. Harry Potter-Inspired Bands
The wizard rock or "wrock" genre properly launched by Harry and the Potters was an international phenomenon that had its heyday between 2000 and 2004. Did you ever get to attend Wrockstock? When's the last time you listened to the Parselmouths or Draco and the Malfoys? Too long ago, is the answer to that question.
9. Analyzing J.K. Rowling's Every Interview
To be fair, we all still do that. But we've stopped analyzing her every interview for clues about upcoming books. Or clues about who was going to fall in love with who. Or clues about which plot points were important and which ones fans were obsessing over for no reason. And, of course, doing that also made it easy for fans to notice when JKR contradicted herself:
10. Discovering A New 'Ship You Never Knew About
Cedric Diggory was going to Hogwarts for three of Harry's own years before we were introduced to him in Goblet of Fire — and I've been obsessed with him and his love life ever since. And did anyone ever think of Fleur Delacour and Bill Weasley or Nymphadora Tonks and Remus Lupin as a couple before Half-Blood Prince?
11. Big Name Fans
From Cassandra Claire to Sarah Rees Brennan to Jaida Jones, Big Name Fans were a core of the early Harry Potter fandom because they were writing the character-defining fanfictions that everyone couldn't get enough of. Cassandra Clare has since written The Mortal Instruments, Sarah Rees Brennan has since written The Demon's Lexicon, and Jaida Jones has since co-written Havemercy, and more people will know them for that than for their fandom works. But, back then, they were one of many legends.
12. All Those Acronyms
BNFs. OBHWF. MWPP. Every day, a new acronym was being invented by the fandom to describe something that had set us all ablaze. Those three stand for Big Name Fan (see above), One Big Happy Weasley Family (i.e. stories in which Ron and Ginny marry Hermione and Harry respectively so everyone is related), and Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs (i.e. Marauders-era stories), by the way. Sometimes, being a hardcore HP fan was like speaking another language — or learning one.
The Harry Potter fandom has grown and changed so much in the last 20 years — just as the fans have grown and change. But one thing remains eternal: once a Potterhead, always a Potterhead.