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LeakyCon feels like teen spirit

by: COURTESY OF HELENA GALLIVAN - Kari O'Sullivan of Seattle shows off her Fawkes the Phoenix costume at Portland's LeakyCon gathering last week at the Oregon Convention Center.More than 4,000 fans of Harry Potter landed in Portland last weekend for LeakyCon, their annual convention.

The fans, mostly women in their teens and early 20s, took over the Oregon Convention Center Thursday, June 27, through Sunday, June 30, to play games, gather in MeetUps and hear panel discussions such as “Behind Platform 9 3/4” and “Is YA Lit ‘Literature’?”

LeakyCon is named for the wizard pub the Leaky Cauldron. In the opening night skit, organizers made it clear that it’s not just about Harry Potter any more. They know their fans are as knowledgeable about (gasp) Jon Pertwee as Sirius Black. It seems like a time warp but tardis dresses and T-shirts have taken a hold on the post-phone box generation.

There were plenty of District 12 training skirts and Mockingjay badges on display as fans of “The Hunger Games” came out in force. (Jackie Emerson, Foxface in that movie, showed her face.)

The mood was like Girl Scout camp: meanness was out, community was in. Every negative comment was preceded by something positive of equal and opposite force. For example: “You guys are awesome cosplayers, but please move out now to take your photos, because we need the room for the next session.”

This is the Good Job generation all grown up. Ironically, most of them are still looking for a good job.

Uniform of the day

The most common costume at the event was an English school uniform. As part of registering, attendees each had a Hogwarts house. Although there were a lot of red and yellow Gryffindors, the sinister green ties and blazer piping of Slytherin came a close second.

by: COURTESY OF JOSEPH GALLIVAN - Kari O'Sullivan of Seattle added detailed touches to her Fawkes the Phoenix costume at LeakyCon in Portland.Multiple winners in the costume/cosplay contest included Kari O’Sullivan of Seattle, for her Fawkes the Phoenix costume; three professional stage costumiers from Phoenix, who came as Steampunk Victorian Gryffindors on their way to a quidditch match; and one of many Ron Weasley’s Mums.

O’Sullivan, 25, was turned on to Potter by her fourth-grade teacher and never looked back.

“I still read the books,” O’Sullivan said. “I have them all on my bookshelf. My fourth-grade teacher read it to me in class. Every time a book came out I’d lose my mind. I read the ‘Deathly Hallows’ in 18 hours. My mom’s not a reader so she’s like ‘OK, whatever, have fun.’ ”

O’Sullivan is cool on “Twilight,” keen on “The Hunger Games” and very impressed with the “Luna Trilogy” about werewolves.

One convention session was simply called, “What Are You Reading?” People lined up for an hour to talk about their current reading passions. One speaker recommended Michael Gant’s “Gone” series, for its horror, and “Anthem For a Reluctant Prophet” by Joanne Proulx. Someone else touted “The Stranger” (aka “The Outsider”). When she said she didn’t know the author’s name, half the room chimed in: “Albert Camus.”

“Right, that! It’s kind of heavy and intellectual but it’s really short,” the woman said.

“My friend got obsessed with this book called ‘The Outsiders,’ ” said a girl in a beanie with a stick-on lightning scar. “It’s about the greasers dealing with the jocks, and I read it and read it and read it and read it. Read this and the feels will go crazy.” (The feels means a wave of strong feeling that cannot quite be explained.) “There are so many feels in this book.”

The SuperWho

LeakyCon warmed up with a fun run in costume and a sing-along of Disney songs. All those repeated viewings of The Lion King and Aladdin were put to good effect as a grey meeting room crowded with sweating teens belted out “Hakuna Matata” and “One Jump Ahead,” crisply word perfect. They were conducted by outliers standing on tables, thoroughly in their element.

Everyone here was calling themselves a geek or a nerd, which has come to be shorthand for anyone who probably has glasses, doesn’t wear Hollister or make-up, and has a slightly non-mainstream passion.

Musical theater geeks are the bright red in the rainbow of types on display. Three actors from Glee answered questions for an hour about themselves, mocked themselves and clapped for themselves. One, Titus Makin Jr., said about of the shows he’d like to star in, “Basically all the shows I know I could be in, as a black guy. No offense to myself,” he joked.

A Potter fan since grade school, Brenna Kessler, 24, came from Winnipeg to meet people and actors. “I like the environment, everyone’s like family everyone’s friendly,” she said.

by: COURTESY OF JOSEPH GALLIVAN - Apsara Quefig from Vancouver, B.C., attended Portland's LeakyCon dressed as a Lolita steampunk Hufflepuff.Apsara Quefig, 18, from Vancouver, British Columbia, said, “I’m looking forward to meeting people in my fandom. It’s been years since I stopped doing Harry Potter stuff.”

Her outfit was a Japanese Lolita crossed with a steampunk Hufflepuff. “I’ve moved on to ‘Supernatural,’ which is shot in Vancouver and is about hunting ghosts. And Dr. Who,” Quefig said.

She was most excited about a SuperWho meetup, which combines those interests.

Karina Nolan was a great example of the empowered Potter fan. The 22-year-old from Seattle spoke eloquently — and nonstop — for five minutes. She too started reading Potter in the fourth grade. “It started my love of every other book, every other TV series, every other creation,” she said.

Nolan has since been to conventions for Dr. Who and fallen for “Sherlock,” the Avengers and Artemis Fowl fictions. Eureka, Stargate, Star Trek.

“We created our own fandom, but Harry Potter is still the one I always come back to,” Nolan said. “It’s through the stories we tell that we understand each other, not just these flights of fantasy that we come up with within our own head.”

Nolan met her friend Margaret last fall when they were both cosplaying characters from the 6,000-page webcomic “Homestuck.”

“The characters we were playing were almost family, and we used that relationship to create a relationship of our own, which has brought me a friend I can talk to about many things, and really trust,” Nolan said. “Which is very rare. So we can go from ‘Homestuck’ to talk about gender, or feminism or something else. It’s not just a fandom, it’s a lens for looking at the world.”