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Goodnight Room (2825 words) by [livejournal.com profile] skogkatt

Every year there is a end-of-year fanfic exchange called Yuletide, where people request underserved fandoms and other people anonymously write fic for them. Often these are fandoms that are very small or barely exist at all. I don't participate directly but I enjoy seeing the clever things other people do.

I've only begun to see recommendations for this year's Yuletide but one story knocked my socks off - Goodnight Room, by Skogkatt for Kass. As the title implies, it is based on the classic picture-book Goodnight Moon, but I don't think there's much overlap in actual audience since the original isn't a beautiful, creepy, hopeful science fiction story. I'm not sure how to recommend it without spoiling it, so here's a small excerpt:

When it is time to sleep, the bunny tells all the things in the room goodnight. All except the telephone. The telephone must stay awake in case anyone wants to make contact. The telephone used to ring. It was alive; it was connected to the rest of the universe. It brought news of the parents and the siblings, of the farmer and his rake, of the primroses. It has been silent a long time now, though the bunny has never told it goodnight. It sleeps just the same, and the bunny knows deep inside that the telephone will never wake, no matter how many times the bunny doesn't say, "Goodnight telephone."

Go read it. But bundle up first.
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In many fantasy worlds, magic is a mystical power, unconstrained by science, not subject to the laws of scientific inquiry. The Harry Potter series is not one of those worlds. In that universe, magic can be taught and used reliably, which should mean that it's analyzable by the scientific method - if only there was a magician who knew enough about science to do so.

The author "Less Wrong" is writing a story in which Harry Potter is that magician. Thanks to Petunia Evans marrying professor Michael Verres instead of Vernon Dursley (and many other changes from canon), the adopted Harry James Potter-Evans-Verres is a very bright 11-year-old who is proficient in math, science, and skepticism. Harry gets his Hogwarts letter, insists on experimental verification that magic is real, and proceeds to cause (and get into) impressive amounts of trouble in the wizarding world.

To some degree, the entire story is an introduction to rational analysis of the world, but the writing is not at all didactic. It's exciting, funny (with a wide variety of in-jokes and references to other works), occasionally touching, and the central conceit is fascinating to me. Given (more-or-less) the world as presented by Rowling, what can be tested? What is implied? What can be done, given a willingness to consider all the possibilities of something like a soda that guarantees that something surprising will happen as soon as you drink it? As I said in a comment at parenthetical.net, the fact that magic is being analyzed makes this, to me, a science fiction story.

One more thing - Harry's ally in scientific analysis of magic is naturally Hermione Granger. This gives her a much bigger part in the story, which I'm glad to see, and she's also a more important player in the clash of powers at Hogwarts.

After 49 chapters the story is up to February of Harry's first year. Many interesting things are happening and I'm at the point where I pretty much drop everything when a new chapter is released. Take a look.


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