As you can tell by previous posts on this blog, I’m a huge Harry Potter fan. More, I’m a big nerd when it comes to fantasy fiction. I’m also big into fanfiction of Harry Potter and a few other fantasy fandoms. Like every reader/writer of fanfiction, there are certain things that just piss me off. I think we can all agree that there are certain things a writer can do to piss off their readers (like not capitalizing nouns; if I see one more person write harry instead of Harry I’m going to scream!)
When I first started to read Harry Potter fanfiction, the biggest pet peeve I had was the incorporation of muggle weapons into a lot of stories. If Harry needs to use a gun to kill Voldemort, then he didn’t need magic. If he doesn’t need magic, then what the hell is the point of the Harry Potter universe? It never made sense to me. Since that time, I’ve gotten a little laxer when it comes to muggle weapons in magical stories. I still don’t care for it. but if the story is otherwise well written and at least a little magical, then I can still read it.
But that peeve has created a monster deep within me that needs to be expressed from time to time, a monster that is much more complex than simply not liking guns in Harry Potter fanfiction. Perhaps the most famous Harry Potter fanfiction (and maybe the most popular fanfiction period) is a story called Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality. The story is long, exceptionally well written and astonishingly popular. It has even spawned its own fanfiction (yes, a fanfiction of fanfiction), something that I’m not sure is even allowed legally.
The problem I have with HPMoR is that it (and many stories like it) attempt to limit magic by explaining and containing it within scientific principles. We know that in canon there are limits to what magic can do (like conjure food), so I guess that explaining the limits that magic does have via science makes sense. But for me, it takes away from the magic of it all, if you know what I mean. Magic with limits is less fun, it’s less…magical.
I’m not saying that magic shouldn’t be understood or explained. My argument is that it shouldn’t be explained with muggle terms. Magic, by its very definition, defies that which can be explained by science. If it didn’t defy those logical, scientific explanations, it wouldn’t be magic, it’d just be an explainable force in nature. And that’s the thing. When you take away the magical-ness of magic and make it a scientific explanation story, it becomes boring. I read about twenty chapters of HPMoR, and quit because I was bored. Maybe it’s because I was never interested in science in school, but more I think it’s because it took away what makes magic interesting: its mysteriousness and the sense that magic, at least in some ways, is all powerful.
I actually like some stories that get into the theory of magic. These stories usually make up laws that magic follows, but even those rules still defy everything that science can explain. To me, that makes sense and can make a very interesting story. It makes sense because we know magic does have it’s own laws, so explaining those are okay.
Going outside of canon, and entering into the realm of fanfiction, I enjoy a lot of stories where magic has no limits at all, even those that were expressly given to us in canon. The whole limitation on conjuring food just felt to me like JKR’s way of making the Horcrux hunt even harder. There was no mention of the laws surrounding food conjuration prior to book seven (I don’t think, I might be wrong. Gamp’s Law might have been mentioned in book 6). JKR had a habit of placing seemingly random roadblocks in the way of Harry’s adventures. The law preventing the trio from making their own food was her way of creating conflict between Ron and the other two. Ron, as we know, is all about food.
Magic with scientific limitations is boring. It just is. Because then all you’re reading about is fancy science. Now for some people, that’s a good time. For me, I’d rather not understand something and it be awesome instead. But maybe I’m just being dramatic.