Genre Splicing: “Harry Potter” as Science Fiction
Harry Potter is one of the hallmarks of modern fantasy literature – a world filled to the brim with fantastical creatures, prophecies, and magic. Most of us accept that, however much we wish it, we won’t be able to find these things in our Muggle lives. But the realm of science fiction, on the other hand, deals with the possibilities, the what-ifs of our world and our future. What if Harry Potter fit this genre instead? In other words, how much of Harry Potter could be read as the blueprint for our future?
While Apparating doesn’t give us Muggles many advantages or clues to the secrets of teleportation, perhaps the Floo Network is a better place to start. It uses some sort of powder that reacts with fire and wham – instant portal to a fireplace of your choosing, triggered by voice command. As for the specifics? Well, science fiction doesn’t have to justify the science behind the technology – look at Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein; there’s no instruction manual for reanimation beyond the application of electricity. So perhaps one day we’ll all be ripping out our gas and electric fireplaces so that entire families don’t get trapped behind them as they teleport through…
2. “Saved” Consciousnesses
TV shows like Black Mirror often make us think very seriously about the direction our current technologies and digital practices are taking us. The idea of life after death has always fascinated many different cultures and religious groups, and Harry Potter has a fair few ideas that touch on this realm of saving a version of our conscious selves. From Horcruxes to the Marauder’s Map, ways of saving some sort of consciousness are evident throughout the wizarding world. But what has really always fascinated me is the moving portraits. To what extent are the people encapsulated within a reflection of their human selves? They are limited to the world of portrait-hopping, but can they be destroyed? Can they be deleted in some way? To what extent are they “real”? Certainly, some portraits such as the Fat Lady and Sir Cadogan play quite a significant role in the series – for painted consciousnesses, at least.
Who was most disappointed about the year 2015 because we didn’t all have hoverboards like in Back to the Future Part II? (I’m raising my right hand!) Flying sounds like one of the coolest things that we haven’t yet invented for ourselves – at least not solo flying on a commercial scale. And Harry Potter gives us a lot of great options: broomsticks, flying Ford Anglias, and Thestrals.
It was a different world. The wheels of the car skimmed the sea of fluffy cloud, the sky a bright, endless blue under the blinding white sun.
‘All we’ve got to worry about now are airplanes,’ said Ron.” (CoS 71)
4. Time Travel
Ah, time travel. It’s perhaps one of the biggest areas of science fiction, all the way from H.G. Wells’ Time Machine to Avengers: Endgame. J.K. Rowling’s vision of time travel is simple, yet it’s powerful and dangerous in the wrong hands. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is all the evidence you need to realize that.
5. Weapons of Instant Destruction
This is an area in which we certainly need no help from the wizarding world. Science fiction has always allowed us to envision a future filled with amazing possibilities, but it has also warned us against creating a dystopian society. The Killing Curse shows us the horrific power of a weapon that can obliterate life in an instant. However, we’ve long had the capability to match and even go beyond this power in our world.
Many of the great science fiction novels have predicted the future. For better or worse, the road of science and inventions often walks so closely to that of science fiction that we wish some scientists would read more into the warnings rather than the possibilities of technology. Not all advancement is positive, and there are always consequences for change. So should we leave Harry Potter alongside The Lord of the Rings or A Song of Ice and Fire, or could it belong with Brave New World, Nineteen Eighty-Four, and The War of the Worlds? Only time will tell…