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How a 500,000-Word Harry Potter Fanfiction Blew Up Online

The 188-chapter story has taken over the internet and spawned a fandom of its own. Rachelle Hampton of Slate’s internet culture-obsessed podcast, ICYMI, explains how we got here.

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A foundational blessing and curse of the internet is that it provides a space for every fan community you can possibly imagine. If you’re into One Direction, Shrek, or say, the 2005 multiplayer online game Club Penguin, your people are out there. And if you’re into Harry Potter, you’ve really hit the jackpot. Far beyond the officially sanctioned realm of Wizarding World, there’s fan sites, message boards, hashtags, vlogs, and of course, fan fiction.

One particular work of fan fiction has exploded over the last several years. It’s called All the Young Dudes, and it’s a 526,969-word fic that currently has a whopping 7.5 million hits on the fanfiction site, Archive of Our Own. All the Young Dudes is set in the era when Harry’s parents attended Hogwarts (ahem, known as the Marauders era), and features both familiar faces, and a budding romance between two of the series’ most beloved figures: Sirius Black and Remus Lupin.

The 188-chapter story has now spawned a fandom of its own. For many original HP fans, the story has become canon, and the ways in which it extends far beyond the universe J.K. Rowling created are all part of the appeal. All the Young Dudes has a huge presence on social media, spawned audiobooks, has 16,000 ratings on Goodreads, has been fancasted, and is even the subject of a conspiracy theory involving Taylor Swift.

I became one of the fic’s obsessed fans myself during the pandemic, and have found the phenomenon—the fandom within a fandom within a fandom—to be just as engrossing as the story itself. It’s exactly the kind of niche online world we like to talk about on Slate’s ICYMI podcast, where we gaze deep into the internet abyss so you don’t have to. This collection of articles aims to do the same. Whether you’re already in deep, or a newbie to the form, these pieces should help illuminate (insert “Lumos” spell joke here) the big, wide world of HP fanfic. —Rachelle Hampton

The Best Harry Potter Novel Isn’t Written by J.K. Rowling

Rachelle Hampton

Rachelle Hampton: “I first started reading All the Young Dudes in November 2020, while I was living at home. (It's an indisputable fact that if you live at home for longer than three weeks, you regress into a teenager.) Once I started, it was inescapable. I said, ‘I’m going to read the first two chapters.’ Fast forward two weeks, and I’m skipping Zoom meetings to read it. What makes All the Young Dudes so engrossing is how detailed and invested it is in building a world outside of the one J.K. Rowling created. Fanfiction as a genre allows for people to write characters into a universe that maybe otherwise wouldn’t have been there or had been given short shrift.”

Is Tumblr About to Get All of Its Creators Sued?

Rachelle Hampton and Allegra Frank

RH: “Smack dab in the midst of the meteoric rise of All the Young Dudes, the dynamics of online fanfiction looked like they were about to change. In July 2021, Tumblr rolled out Post+, a feature that allowed users to lock their posts behind paywalls. The new system was designed to give content creators an opportunity to monetize their work, but it was met with backlash by users who feared that it would subject fanwork creators to legal trouble or discourage them from posting at all. The world of fanfiction is already booming, and as it continues to expand into the mainstream, the legal issues surrounding it will only get thornier. Just look at the unofficial Bridgerton musical.”

Nanowrimo Explained: Why Hundreds of Thousands of People Are Writing Novels This Month

Kelsey McKinney

RH: “If you’ve ever been an active Tumblr user, you know the power of NaNoWriMo (aka National Novel Writing Month) firsthand. The communities on the platform that revolve around fanfiction become absolutely desolate every year as people around the globe try to write a novel in just one month, much to the chagrin of the many other users who’d rather read fiction (fanworks and otherwise) than write it.”

All the Young Dudes

Archive of Our Own

RH: “‘Saturday 7th August, 1971. He woke up in the dark.’ Those are the first words of ATYD, and if you choose to continue after that (which I highly encourage, obviously), just know that the next several days or weeks of your life might take on an entirely new purpose.”

Harry Potter Fans Reimagine Their World Without Its Creator

Julia Jacobs
The New York Times

RH: “The Harry Potter fandom has been forced to grapple with author J.K. Rowling’s public displays of transphobia over the last several years, and All the Young Dudes is very much a part of that reckoning. While its initial publishing predates much of the ensuing controversy, its content expands the series into a world that is much bigger and queerer than the one Rowling made. It’s a perfect illustration of how fans can hold onto the art they love and even expand it, even when they have to leave their fandom for the author behind.”

You Belong to Me

Laura Miller

RH: “Fanfiction has existed for time immemorial – what is Dante’s Inferno but a fanfic of the Bible? Still, it’s not controversial to say that with the advent of platforms like Wattpad, Fanfiction.net and my beloved Archive of Our Own (AO3 for the insiders), that there’s been a massive boom in the volume and availability of fic. That boom has, in many ways, rewritten and reshaped the relationship between fans and creators, a process that we’re still seeing the results of.”

Rachelle Hampton

Rachelle Hampton is a culture writer and reporter at Slate and co-host of ICYMI. Her work has appeared in The New Republic, Pacific Standard, Smithsonian Magazine, and In These Times.