Geeks have hearts of gold.
I wrote some time ago about an effort to aid Haiti relief, spearheaded by an organization called the Harry Potter Alliance, which has long inspired Harry Potter fans to take action on real-world social issues like global warming and Darfur. Recently, it launched its largest fandom action, called Help Haiti Heal, to raise money for the victims of the Haiti earthquake.
Of course, the point was to raise a bunch of money in a time of need. But, on the sly, I think the effort helped show that so-called escapist pursuits like reading fantasy novels like Harry Potter, watching fantasy movies like Lord of the Rings, or participating in role-playing games can actually connect to the real world, too.
Heroic acts and derring-do involving wielding wands and swords and smiting evil-doers are all well and good in a book or movie. What makes this success so sweet is that the forces of gaming and fantasy and fandom can be wielded, too. And fans and gamers can be a powerful body indeed.
The effort is also a reminder that one reason we need fantasy is to remind us how to act in the real world. Perhaps society’s lack of a coming-of-age ritual explains the appeal. We have a driver’s license, and a drinking age, and we get married. But not much else. Fantasy genre fills this void, framing the hero’s journey in right and wrong, good and evil.
Moreover, books give hope in hopeless times—like when calamity strikes. Fantasy is a genre people can read and retreat to and gather strength to face the real world. Refuge from oppression, personal or political, or wars or natural disasters like earthquakes all lay in the fairy world and the possibility of imagination. Fantasy keeps the spirit alive and kicking, and provides a blueprint for good behavior.
So thank you! Fans of all kinds have come together and raised over $110,000 for Partners In Health in Haiti... We’re chartering three cargo planes packed with 75,000 pounds of critical, life-saving supplies to thousands of people in Haiti.
The planes are going to be named Harry, Ron, and Hermione.
You can still donate here: http://www.thehpalliance.org/haiti/
Ethan Gilsdorf is the author of the travel memoir-pop culture investigation Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks: An Epic Quest for Reality Among Role Players, Online Gamers, and Other Dwellers of Imaginary Realms.