I know it because i just spent three days in the company of Los Angeles’s Harry Potter fandom.
Did you know that there’s been a store in the L.A. area since… Well, the website says something about "since 1367" which I find extremely irritating. But i think it’s been around since 05.
The store is called "Whimsic Alley." the website kinda sucks… the store is delightful, set-dressed to be Diagon Alley, with different facades for the different departments– hats and robes and candy and books and HP tchotchkes and wands. And there’s a Great Hall in the back, which really is good, if not totally Great, which they rent out for Harry Potter parties, high teas, and whatever moneymaking events they can come up with.
This weekend, they put a small crafts fair in the Great hall, and one of the employees emailed me via DragonMother Wands inviting me to plunk down a small table fee because hey, wandmaker. So, I did.
I haven’t done a live event in a long time, and the first thing i did was put a costume together and that was a ton of fun.
And how is it that black rimmed glasses are de riguere in the Wizarding world? Why don’t we all have magically perfect eyesight?
But that’s not what I wanted to talk about. The thing that I had kind of not realised when I took the table was this; Harry Potter fans are Harry Potter fans– especially at this late date. They aren’t fantasy-in-general fans.
My costume, for instance, kind of confused them, although I did get coments that I looked as if i had just stepped out of Diagon Alley… one person asked if I were an Auror. I said; "No Ma’am, I’m a wand maker." Harry Potter fans wear school clothing with a tie in house colors, and robes– the store sells a very good quality robe, ‘ll say that much. Interestingly, there were more Slitherins visiting than Griffendors– I guess that’s to be expected in Los Angeles!
The visitors that came by my table were pretty doubtful about the veracity of my work. They aren’t thinking about, say, magic wands in any other way than as trademarks of the characters that they love. For every wand that I sold, two or four people would wander away, and show up later with Hermione’s or Snape’s or Harry’s mass produced replica wand, that they’d bought in the front store. Because they don’t want their own unique wand. They want harry’s wand.
At the table next to me, a group of younger-to-middling aged women were selling the cratfs that they had made at their harry Potter fan club, "dumbledore’s Army." they lived and breathed harry Potter fandom. they were so much fun to listen to and talk to– like girl scouts who were old enough to drink. One woman told me that her job would have killed her, if she hadn’t had her girls and the fan club to make her laugh and keep her sane, and another one nodded agreement.
The crafts were: painted photo frames in house colors. Bead bracelets in house colors. Knitted phone and ipod cozies in house colors. Appliqued pillows depicting Harry, Ron, Hermione, wearing red and yellow scarves. they did a roaring trade. people asked for other pillows; Snape, mostly.
And another woman had japanese crochet character dolls, i forget the name– simple crochet balls with a small amount of embellishment. Two black button eyes signifies a face; red yarn hair means Ron, brown yarn hair means hermione, Black yarn hair plus circles embroidered around the eyes (and a zig-zag between them) and hey presto, it’s harry! Black long hair is Snape, white is Luna or Draco. She couldn’t keep them on the table. She was a bit overwhelmed in fact, by how popular they were. Hell, i thought they were cute!
The front of the store includes a bookstore, featuring All Things Rowling. there’s a little kiosk seling twilight stuuf– at a deep discount, because, the owner told me, his clients turned up their noses at anything that isn’t Harry. they didn’t buy Lemony Snickett. They didn’t like some other wanna-be middle readers hit series. They weren’t buying twilight, and they weren’t buying The Hunger games. I was planning to give him a list of YA and middle readers fantasy but forget it. I asked him if he had thought about Steampunk, and he said he’d love to but doubted his clients would support the change…
I talked for a while with the young man who is actually an employee, and who wears Hogwarts school uniform with aplomb. he’s just 18 years old. he’d never read much untill he started reading HP. he has also enjoyed reading Frankenstein. he wasn’t so sure about the Lord Of The Rings, hadn’t tried reading mush else although he does like the "Hunger Games" series which is some sort of dystopian adventure ? He brought me a piece of paper and I wrote out a list for him– Sarah Rees Brennan, Scott Westerfield, Elizabeth Bear, Terry Pratchett, Neal Gaiman, all the regulars. he’d never heard of a single one of them.
Money-wise, I made my nut and a little profit even after food, parking etc. There’s a fabulous Punjabi restaurant next door, so my food bills were a teensy bit on the high side! I won’t do this again, though. Not unless they shut down their own wand shop while I’m there, and why should they do that? I did suggest that they have me come in to do an entertaining lecture on wands and a trunk show during one of their High Teas, perhaps on a percentage basis. I think I’d get better returns that way.