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Esther, Hazel, and TFiOS: Highly Biased and Personal Thoughts After Viewing the Film

(This is a spoiler-free collection of thoughts about The Fault in Our Stars after seeing a screening of the film in NY.)

So, confession time: I’ve had a little ghost, a little knot, of discomfort in my heart about The Fault in Our Stars movie since I heard it was happening. See, once upon a time, my own little infinity of a life brushed against that of Esther Earl, the young woman whose real-life story inspired the fictional events of TFIOS. While you will hear over and over again through the press for this film that the fictional Hazel Grace Lancaster is not an avatar for the cheerful Esther, it is impossible for those of us who have been wrapped in the details to fully divorce the two people. Despite what any author or any actor says about the need to separate fact from fiction and how important it is that we don’t beatify the dead, anyone who knew Esther - even someone who knew her as briefly and in as frustratingly incomplete of a way as I did - is going to see her on the screen.

I knew it would happen, and it’s why those twinges have plagued me. It’s one thing to repeat to yourself, “Hazel is not Esther Hazel is not Esther,” and convince yourself you have made the distinction, but let’s be honest: it’s never going to fully banish the memories. Whether or not we beatify the dead we sure as heck don’t want to blemish them. And what if the movie did that? Is it ever okay to take that chance with someone’s memory? It’s one thing for a life to inspire a book, which can hold whatever insight an author manages to cram into it. But a movie? A movie that has to fit length and make sure it has only enough swear words to stay PG13, and star beautiful people? Movies have a track record of reducing our favorite, nuanced fictions to piles of story puree that can be easily digested, and I knew that as angry as I ever got about a shallow choice in Harry Potter would be nothing in comparison to how I would feel if Esther’s memory were the basis for such tarnish.

And thus I went in to the surprise screening of The Fault in Our Stars expecting to have to remind myself that Hazel is not Esther Hazel is not Esther in order to see it as it’s meant to be seen: to cart away my baggage and just watch a film. And let’s be clear, my baggage is not very large: I met Esther very briefly at LeakyCon 2009 the same night she met John Green; we shared some texts and one phone call before she left us. I have less right than any of her friends, and certainly any of her family, to be concerned about this. It’s Esther’s story – her impact on the attendees of the conference I run, on so many people I know, and on the HP Alliance — that has been my traveling companion on this journey. I’ve watched her impact on the world she left behind grow, and have marveled at its seemingly limitless trajectory. Now that a piece of her is about to be served to the moviegoing world – not known for celebrating nuance and realism – I found myself a bit scared, and very worried. 

Another, darker, emotion has plagued, too, as the yin-yang Hazel/Gus poster has become ubiquitous. Anger. Anger that Esther never actually got to be that starry-eyed girl; that she would never have a romantic trip to Amsterdam, or the chance to cozy herself under the chin of her true love. Why do movies get all the glory, I’d think as I stalked past a poster in the subway station. It’s not fair that she never got this, that this imagined part of her life has to exist only on pages and on screens. I can’t speak for anyone else but if it were in my power to take Hazel and Gus’s story from them and give it to Esther, I would do it in a heartbeat.

There’ve been a lot of jokes (some of them made by me) about how ready you should be to cry when you go and see this film. I won’t pretend that prophecy hasn’t borne out. I won’t share any spoilers, but you know it’s a film about teenagers with cancer. Your imagination shouldn’t be that far off the mark. 

However, I was pretty surprised to find that the “push-here-to-make-audience-cry” portions of the movie were not the parts that left me snot-nosed and sore-headed. As Shailene’s performance unfolded I gave up trying to stop comparing her to Esther, and it was there that was the key. Of course you are  going to see Esther in Hazel, I finally thought. Stop fighting it.

So, while still remembering that key mantra - Hazel is not Esther, Hazel is not Esther - I started imagining that this was a life that, just maybe, Esther could have lived. And in doing the thing I swore to try not to do, I found a new appreciation for the fiction and the life behind it.

I’m not the person who can tell you if this is a good movie or not. I’m not the person who can tell you if the acting holds up or does justice or what. I’m not the person who can compare this to other films, or tell you how it looks outside the bubble of Nerdfighteria and LeakyCon and This Star Won’t Go Out and the HP Alliance, and all the other people and things that have circled this frail girl’s phenomenal life story. But I can tell you what it was like inside that bubble, and inside that bubble I found myself surprisingly happy.

Happy to imagine Esther dining under twinkling lights in Amsterdam; happy to imagine that it’s possible for ill teenagers to achieve this level of eloquence; happy to imagine that small girl who affected us so powerfully engaging in so much happiness of her own. Even happy to imagine her heart being broken, for, as bearers of broken hearts everywhere will tell you, the breaking is typically worth it. I found myself happy that there exists such a vivid imagination of the life she didn’t get to live.
After the book was released, there was a lot of discussion about infinities, and whether Hazel was right that some infinities are larger than others. To be honest I never paid much attention to the literal answer to that question. The book is not overly concerned with whether there are actually more numbers between zero and two than zero and one: the book is about emotional infinities. The meshy fabric of time that wraps around a love story is, emotionally speaking, much larger than one that contains just breakfast, or a school day. Yet, I considered for the first time while watching this film that infinities are actually able to grow.

No life is a closed circuit, and it’s already obvious that Esther Earl’s was anything but. It seems to me, however, that the story that Esther was able to inspire is having the unexpected side effect of growing her infinity. No matter what fate holds for the film on its own standing, it has linked to Esther’s life that which cancer denied: the fairy tale she (and every good person) deserves.

As second-bests go, it’s not so bad.

CONGRATULATIONS to Team StarKid, the LeakyCon 2014 Fandom Madness Champion! The StarKids dominated round after round with greater and greater numbers each time. 

Team StarKid and LeakyCon go way back. They performed the inaugural “A Very StarKid Event” at LeakyCon 2011 and in 2012 they stunned us all with their incredible performance of “A Very Potter Musical 3: A Very Potter Senior Year.” In 2013, they wowed audiences at both LeakyCon Portland and LeakyCon London with their unique brand of nerdy-awesome fun.

This congratulatory post would be incomplete without a well-earned shout-out to the IMPRESSIVE showing by the Welcome to Night Vale fandom! We love Night Vale but were unprepared for to the consistently awesome fan response! 

Thank you to everyone who voted. We were surprised and excited by your enthusiasm and dedication to your fandoms. Remember, this tournament was all in fun. Regardless of how your brackets fared, the fandoms you love are already winners because they can count your among their ranks. 

If you haven’t already, we invite you to register and join us this summer for LeakyCon 2014 in Orlando, Florida! We have an awesome five-day celebration of fans and fandom in store. The only thing missing is you. 

knowitall-granger  asked:

Hi Hank! Would you let us know if you are not planning on going to LeakyCon this year? I know there is still time for you to be announced, but you haven't been yet and I am started to get a little worried that you won't be there. I understand you have a super busy summer ahead of you and that you may not have the time, but Leakycon wouldn't be the same without you.

I very unhappily will be missing my first ever LeakyCon this year. I’m really sorry to let you down, but John will be there! And he’s way cooler than me anyway, as evidenced by the fact that…he’ll be there :-)


I could never adequately put into words the emotions these two photos represent for me, but with the events of this past weekend, I feel the need to make some kind of post so here it goes.

The top photo was taken almost four years ago at my very first Harry Potter convention, which was Infinitus in July of 2010 in Orlando, Florida.  The Harry Potter Alliance had just won $250,000 from the Chase Community Giving Challenge with Esther.  The photo was taken at the end of the press conference where Chase Bank representatives came to present the HPA with the giant check.  Since Esther was not well enough to travel to Florida on such short noticed, she was skyped in and projected on a giant screen so she could share in the moment with all of us.  After all, it was through this campaign that she started to inspire people on a wider scale with her story and her love.  That day is such a bitter sweet memory for me.  I can still close my eyes and picture myself in that room surrounded by love and passion as Paul DeGeorge began serenading Esther with The Weapon, which then turned into the mosh pit of love pictured above.  It was in this moment that for the first time, I was starting to really see how big of a part of my life this fandom was going to become.  I was starting to understand that this community is more than just a bunch of people who love Harry Potter, it is a community of people just full of love, who will grow to become like a family to me.  But that day also holds another special place in my heart because it was also the last time I got to talk to Esther face to face (or rather screen to screen).  After the press conference was over, a line formed for people to talk to Esther.  I was in the front of the line, but just said a quick “hello” and “I love you” to her and let other people have their turn, since I knew I’d be able to talk to her on skype when I got home from the conference.  I didn’t know those would be the last words I spoke to her before she passed away about a month later.  I would frequently return to the moment in this photo when I was missing Esther and didn’t want to feel sad about her being gone, but wanted to be reminded of all the love and happiness she brought into other people’s lives.

The bottom photo, was taken just a few days ago at the book launch for Esther’s book.  As Paul and Joe invited us all on stage with them for their final song (The Weapon, of course), once again, I found myself sharing such a special moment of love with this fandom.  This time, however, I was able to share this moment with some of my best friends.  As the song opened with the words “We may have lost Sirius Black” no one was thinking of Sirius and the Harry Potter series, but of Esther and the love she has inspired in all of us.  Everyone started to put their arms around each other and just sway with the music.  Esther may not have been able to be there with us physically, but she was there in the hearts of her friends, family, and even strangers who had been touched by her story and her love. 

I love that in a way, singing The Weapon with Harry and the Potters and all of my friends on stage that night sort of brought me full circle.  In 2010 I still felt so new to the fandom, even though it has been over a year since I had discovered it, because it wasn’t until that moment that I stopped feeling like an outsider looking in and just let the love of the fandom take over me.  I knew then, this is where I belong, and this is where I want to stay.  I really really hope I can make LeakyCon work with my schedule this summer because it brings me physical pain to think that I will not be able to be there with my friends and share in this love yet again.  I have also yet to attend an Esther Day, and I think celebrating Esther Day at the close of LeakyCon is just the perfect way to end the Con.  It was loneliness that brought me into this fandom, but love that kept me here, and Esther’s love and the love of the rest of the Cats that played a huge part in that.  This community has taught me so much about myself and friendships, and that it is possible to be 1000% yourself in a friendship without having to hold back certain aspects for fear of coming off too strong or being judged.  I love that my friends understand me, and accept me, even when I’m major fangirling over something they don’t care about, because they know what it is like to be passionate and enthusiastically nerdy about things.

“There’s one thing that I’ve got
One thing that you’ve got inside you too
One thing that we’ve got
And the one thing we’ve got is enough to save us all
The weapon we have is love”
-Harry and the Potters


Happy Project For Awesome! Make sure to vote for all of the TSWGO video today and tomorrow :)

What I forget -

- until each time I leave for LeakyCon, and the texts and excitement start flying, is that I AM SEEING SOME OF MY BEST FRIENDS TOO. In the craziness of the year and all the work it’s easy to forget that. And I watch how people say “I’m going home,” and mean it. And I always feel like that guy who’s watching you all be happy and that makes me EXTRAORDINARILY happy.

And then today happens, the day I’m on the way. And I remember I am going to see John and Frak, and I have friends who have never seen this coming to experience it, and my cousin is coming from Italy, and my first ever fandom friend Meg (the one who got engaged in my book) is coming for the first time, and Cheryl is coming, and we got Maureen a Segway (the only thing that tops getting to just SEE Maureen), and I will get to hang with Andrew and Paul and Matt and Lauren B and Lauren F (who are just such wonderful examples of human beings in general), and I am so fortunate that my business partner is someone who is also my dear friend, and my coworkers and colleagues and all our volunteers are genuinely good people trying to do a good thing, and my life is such that I get to do a thing where I can order Mandrakes and Thor costumes and Hobbit ears as a legitimate part of my workday and that all my weird, silly impulses have a real shot of turning into real life (and often have). That is such an unbelievable gift. And for the first time since 2009 I am doing it free from threat on my life. Best LeakyCon ever.

My life is good, and I’m going home. See you there.

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Is this a real announcement?


But isn’t 2016 after 2015?


So why are you announcing 2016 before 2015?

Because, as you may have read, Universal has announced that a Wizarding World park is opening in Los Angeles in 2016. Like we said on our Twitter ages ago: when the LA park opens, we will have a Southern California event. And we want you to know about it immediately.

There will still be a LeakyCon in 2015, right?

Absolutely. And by the looks of our plans, it’s going to be amazing.

What does it mean that you’re going back to your roots?

LeakyCon has grown into something magical and different from its original incarnation, and for some time now we been waiting for the right opportunity to produce an additional, smaller conference.

We started with Harry Potter as our only focus, and when the doors opened on that castle in Boston in 2009, hundreds of people streamed in and took in the immersive atmosphere we had worked hard to create. Their faces lit up as they saw the lights, the house colors, and the streaming banners. We would still bet you that if you ask any 2009 staffer about their top five moments from all LeakyCons, that one makes the list. There was nothing like seeing Harry Potter fans come home.

What about the broader, all-fandom LeakyCon?

It hasn’t changed in the slightest! This is going to be a separate, smaller event. We played with a lot of names: LeakyCon “Old School,” LeakyCon “Vintage,” LeakyCon “Like When There Were Fewer of Us Around,” but nothing sat truly right. It’s really just the ineffable thing that is a LeakyCon. This specific event will be themed around only Harry Potter. It will be smaller than the main LeakyCon.

Does that mean there will be two LeakyCons in the US in 2016?


TWO? Are you all crazy?


Really, what we are is very lucky. Because of the support you all have shown the conference as it has grown, we are able to do a Harry Potter-only event that focuses on the quality of the experience for fans of the boy wizard we all love. We didn’t want the stupendous change and growth in main LeakyCon to mean that we lose a bit of the magic that brought us all together in the first place: robes swishing down hallways and an experience that only exists because we decided to create it together.

We have only grown to love the books more with time. And now that we’ve done this a few times, we can’t wait to make something special for those of you who might prefer the intimate one-fandom experience as your summer getaway.

How many people do you expect at this event?

We will have space for about 500 people. We’ll be more specific in the future about how this differs from main LeakyCon.

Will it have rock? Costumes? A park event? Will parodies and fan creations be allowed? Who from the HP cast will be there? What will happen? When is it? Where is it?

There’s a long time between now and 2016 – except if you are an event planner. Then there’s very little time at all. We are hoping to do a park event (hi, Universal!). We believe strongly that music is essential to all cultures and communities, so there will be HP-based music in some form. But this won’t be your regular LeakyCon: this will be for the hardest-core Potter fans among you. Keep an eye on leakycon.com for news and announcements as they happen!

What about the UK? Ireland? Belgium? Germany? Australia? Japan? All the other countries?

We are committed to bringing LeakyCon to more places in the future and these plans don’t impinge on that at all!

So, but… which… how… which one do I go to?!

Only you can answer that question! But now you can go to both!

How much will it cost?

We don’t know yet, but we don’t expect it to differ much from our normal LeakyCon pricing structure.

Does this mean that the main LeakyCon won’t have Harry Potter as its core anymore?

Puuuuuuuuuhlease. You’d have to pry Harry Potter from our cold, dead hands.


Oh, we will let you know! Past registrants of LeakyCon tend to get first dibs on this sort of thing, so if you were wondering if 2014 was the right time…

This announcement is just so you can put it in your minds and calendars. We are still working hard on the 2015 announcement and will have that as soon as possible. More importantly: We are working harder than ever on the geekout of LeakyCon 2014, which will be, without any doubt, our biggest and best event yet. We have a lot of announcements and a lot of fantastic things coming soon. Be there!

Again, thank you: We were sure that 2011 was going to be our last year. It was your enthusiasm that made us realize we could never let it end, and it is only through the growth that has come because of it that we are able to take a little trip back in time to create something new, incredible, and wonderfully familiar. Together.


This year, LeakyCon is shining the spotlight on the awesome costumes that fans create and wear! CosPLAY encourages fans submit a short clip of themselves in costume reenacting a pivotal scene for their character for a chance to rock their costume on the LeakyCon MainStage! 

Check out LeakyCon.com for all the details!

Have you registered for LeakyCon yet? Don’t wait! Tickets are going fast. Register now!

anonymous asked:

So what exactly IS GeekyCon going to be? Is it going to have less Harry Potter? Are the wrock concerts not going to be wrock concerts anymore? I'm just a little confused on how the division is going to work.

This year’s LeakyCon was a GeekyCon. Any changes you see in the future would have happened independent of whether we were called LeakyCon, GeekyCon, SneakyCon, FreakyCon, or Butts.

ghostofghostspast  asked:


Yep I was lucky enough to go to leakycon london back in 2013 and met evanna lynch (luna), alfie enoch (dean), chris rankin (percy), robbie jarvis (james) plus a bunch of the kids who were in the epilogue or the prince’s tale

I’ve seen a couple of the actors in shows as well (dan, rupert, matt, and kenneth  branagh) but I feel bad about dragging my family to stage door so I haven’t actually met them. 10 metres away is good enough for me though