Yes. I am a Gryffindor.
I bring this up on the twentieth anniversary of Harry Potter, because mostly Facebook asked me what my house was, and I said Gryffindor.
"Oh, so you're the chosen one," everyone who isn''t Gryffindor (in other words, everyone) says.
"So you have Main Character syndrome."
"Yeah. Everyone and their dog is Gryffindor."
Everyone is everything but a Gryffindor, because they don't want to be the fantasy equivalent of a man bun.
Ravenclaws are smart and intellectual. Slytherins are badass and on the edge. Hufflepuffs are about 90 percent of the fandom, because let's face it, Harry Potter people are amazing and sweet and are very good finders.
"Everyone is a Gryffindor," everyone says, putting on their not-Gryffindor scarves.
At school, I tried to put together a Hogwarts festival. We couldn't do it. Because there were forty something Ravenclaws and me and some other kid in the Gryffindor house and all the professors refused to be our Head of House. The Hufflepuff Head of House had already designed presents for all the Hufflepuffles. Gryffindors? We were an army of two. And there was no mathematical way we were going to win the house cup.
That is to say, it was canceled on account of no Gryffindors.
I'm pretty sure there were more Gryffindors back in the day. It was cool back then. Be like the trio. But then everyone realized there were other houses and other stories and they expanded their horizons. That's fine.
But I'm a Gryffindor.
I've always been a Gryffindor.
"Are you sure though?" People will say. "What did Pottermore say?"
They all said Gryffindor.
"But you don't really know thought right?" they say. "I think you're more Hufflepuff."
My entire sense of self was thrown out of whack when at the age of fourteen, I was wrongly diagnosed as a Slytherin at Harry Potter camp.
I'm brave to a fault. I work hard and help others and yes I like recognition for it but I do it for a moral compass, not to be a hero, and that can be misconstrued sometimes. Sometimes I fall short. Sometimes I can't see past the end of my nose. Sometimes I get wrapped up in whatever is happening in the center of the story I don't see the really cool stuff happening everywhere else. I jump into the middle of the mosh and I suffocate. That's okay.
I'm also the first person who will be there when you are crushed with life changing news. I will fight to the death next to your side, even if it's just some stupid puppy love broken heart or your puppy has pissed all over your rug or you have to face something worse, like your own personal dementors.
I know who I am. And that's a strong thing to know.
Happy twenty years, Harry Potter.
As I started thinking of how to combine these two ideas, I kept having this averse reaction to the idea of science making soul mates. The lack of agency in the articles that covered thirty minutes of staring at each other in order to program the brain to empathize/fall in love, and also the erasure of choice for Psyche in the myth both ran against my grain. Of course you can trick your brain into loving someone. But for a character who is intelligent, strong-willed, and wanting something deeper than a trick ... would it work then?
And I realized, while deciding what exactly this story was going to be, that I was so defensive and offended because of something weird that had happened to me.
In 2010, I saw a photograph of a man in a vest, thick curly hair, and big green blue eyes that held galaxies in them. I had no idea what his name was, where he came from, what flavor of cereal he ate growing up, none of it. But I said to my brother, "So I think I saw my soul mate today."
And when I met that man, and I hugged that man, it was like I'd been waiting my whole life to find him again. Whatever the hell that means.
After we were married, he told me he felt that weird feeling, too.
There's something deeper to all this love stuff. Love shouldn't be stressful or forced or forced upon or a scientific formula. It's something I can't explain. It's something I'm not sure an article or a myth can explain.
But we can try. I mean, that's one reason why we write about it, study it, remember it through lore.
Divya poses a very good question at the end of the recording. It's gotten me thinking in a whole new way about this story. And through her question, I realize, as it's now in the world and considered a finished product, I'm only starting to understand this one.
To read or listen "Nozizwe and Almahdi" on Escape Pod, click here.
So I've definitely already made this announcement in real life. But I haven't officially told my blog and the website what's going on.
Tonight, I watched Hasan Minhaj's Netflix special. Toward the end, he talks about his callbacks for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. When he finally landed the gig, he wanted to say, "Jon ... this is the one thing I've gotten that my dad knows."
What comes out is, "Jon. My dad knows you!"
I lost it. I laughed and laughed. Because this is exactly the thought I had when I got the acceptance email from Charlie Finlay at Fantasy and Science Fiction.
My dad has never read a word of what I've written. I've published a book. I've been in an anthology. I've gotten enough sales where I'm now Active SFWA. Even back when I lived in Chicago and wrote plays, he never came and saw them. And I guess that's a good thing, because my mom got mad at my portrayal of a dad character in my junior year project.
But Dad knows what F&SF is.
When I quit my dayjob to be a writer, he worried. He told me, "Can't you at least sub for the district?" And I said, "No. I'm cutting this off completely."
But when I got this sale. My dream sale. The one I'd been working for ... he took me out to eat. He said, "They sell that in real bookstores!" He said, "That's where Dark Tower was." He said, "When I was a kid, I had F&SF all over my room. It got me through my childhood."
There are still miles to go. There are a million things I haven't done. But Charlie ... my dad knows you.
Since 2000-whatever, we've been heading to the mountains, Kaitlin and Jeff and me, to write a bunch of cool stuff. The little town of Estes Park is where I first read The Hobbit (I know, it was late in life). It's where I finished the last scene of my book. It's where I came up with some ideas for some cool short stories. It's home.
So this year, when I knew we would return to the mountains, and since our writing family had grown, I thought it would be cool to make the retreat bigger.
So we invited a few people to join us. Five of us drove out/flew out/waited for the rest of us to drive out or fly out, and we met up in a beautiful cabin.
We went downtown to some great adventures. We went to the bookstore for Independent Bookstore Day. We went to the haunted Stanley Hotel! We saw ghosts and we saw elk and we saw the tops of tall peaks. It was all very magical indeed.
It was 2003. Order of the Phoenix had dropped and I was not a fan how it ended. So I told my brothers I was going to write them a story we could read every night.
Eventually, it was less about reading it to my brothers and more about me finishing a gigantic project. I wanted to see if I could do it. I did it.
This all might sound really juvenile, but it was my first foray into noveling, and tracking characters, and working towards plots, and pacing, and all of the things you have to do as an actual writer. And it worked well as a training ground, because a lot of that plot was already in place by Rowling, the characters already existed. My world-building was cut in half because there was the HP Lexicon available in 2003. It took me a year to write Forever Alive, and I came out of it with a way better understanding of how I work, how my writing works, and how to craft a big epic story.
The other thing that came out of it was an audience. I learned how to take criticism. I learned how to work with a dramaturg. I learned how to listen to some comments and let the other comments go. And weirdly enough, I learned how to deal with fan mail. Because yeah, Forever Alive did gather a following. I still get things in the inbox about it, usually every other day. Some of it is great. Like "This really helped me in a bad situation" or "I really hope you're writing professionally now" or "Thank you for this story." And some other ones are creepy, like "Please marry me." And others are weird, like, "Actually, James has five hundred eyebrow hairs, not four hundred and ninety nine."
And the fun thing about it is ... it's low stakes. It was a fanfiction about the Marauders. It meant so much to me to write it, and it's meant a lot to others, but it's not my career. It's not my own world creation. If they don't like the way Remus is treated, welp, that's Rowling's circus, not mine. It was just special enough to keep me invested, and it was just removed enough to not make it personal. I knew it was never going to be for real published. So it was fine. Whatever happened with it was great.
And a lot happened with it. A couple of awards. It spread to a wide audience. Translations. Facebook buttons. Fanart. It was great.
It got me into college, this story. It showed my advisors I could write something long form and keep people invested. That was cool. And there was one kid in my college class who made fun of me for it. But the thing is ... fanfiction has taught a lot of great contemporary writers how to write.
So go out. Write your Supernatural Harry Potter Twilight Percy Jackson Wind in the Willows one shot. Do a crossover between Full House and Fullmetal Alchemist. Play in others' sandboxes in a safe space. And then go out into the world.
Oh, and if you want to read my old high school fanfiction from 2003, here's the link:
Forever Alive by Mordred
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Dawson is an editor and writer and MFA student at Stonecoast. She writes stuff.