Last while I heard a fanfiction series, “Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality“, mentioned on a podcast. In it, Harry is raised not by the abusive and smallminded Dursleys, but by a scientist, and thought to think critically. For him, the world is run by rules, and they can be sussed out by observation and experimentation. You might think that getting a letter from Hogwarts inviting him to a school of witchcraft and wizardry meant an end to that, but it isn’t: instead, he realizes that the fundamental rules of the universe must be different than current thinking. And so he decides to figure out the rules. Not only is the quest is side-shakingly funny, but the characterization and writing are captivating so far. Harry is strides the thin line between madness and insanity, and his ambition to conquer the magical world with science is interpreted by some as the sign that he might well be the next Dark Lord, a position the reader might well sympathize with given his penchant for hanging around Draco Malfoy. The story as written so far is a charming combination of the familiar — an eccentric Dumbledore, the stern McGonnagal, the fun of exploring an entirely new world — with intriguing twists. Harry and Draco’s first meeting, for instance, begins in conflict, but ends with them being intrigued by the other instead of loathing him. Their tête-à-têtes are perversely interesting. While the author gives parts of Rowling’s world much more depth — the three “other” houses, Quirrel, Malfoy, and Hermione so far — other parts are ignored completely (Quidditch) or taken down a peg (Gryffindor). The characters are also a bit more self-aware and make sly references to gaming culture (“Fine, I’ll put my quest items in my inventory“) and literature (wherein Dumbledore quotes Gandalf, with a twinkle in his eye and reveals that Mugglborn students insist on giving him copies of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
If you’ve a mind for some good laughs, interesting conversations, and some tantalizing development of characters of the Harry Potter universe, do look it up…but be revised, it’s hard to stop reading.
“In any case, Mr. Potter, you have not answered my original question,” said Professor Quirrell finally. “What is your ambition?”
“Oh,” said Harry. “Um..” He organized his thoughts. “To understand everything important there is to know about the universe, apply that knowledge to become omnipotent, and use that power to rewrite reality because I have some objections to the way it works now.”
There was a slight pause.
“Forgive me if this is a stupid question, Mr. Potter,” said Professor Quirrell, “but are you sure you did not just confess to wanting to be a Dark Lord?”
“That’s only if you use your power for evil,” explained Harry. “If you use the power for good, you’re a Light Lord.”
“I see,” Professor Quirrell said. He tapped his other cheek with a finger. “I suppose I can work with that. But Mr. Potter, while the scope of your ambition is worthy of Salazar himself, how exactly do you propose to go about it? Is step one to become a great fighting wizard, or Head Unspeakable, or Minister of Magic, or -”
“Step one is to become a scientist.”
Professor Quirrell was looking at Harry as if he’d just turned into a cat.
“A scientist,” Professor Quirrell said after a while.
“A scientist?” repeated Professor Quirrell.
“Yes,” Harry said. “I shall achieve my objectives through the power… of Science!”