Well, I’ve already done a list of the best fics where Moses comes to the mountain, so now let’s do ones where the mountain discovers Moses. In other words, a list of stories where characters from sci-fi settings discover the Harry Potter setting. (I like these because they tend to result in interesting reactions to the unexpected on both sides.)
The big difference here being that these tend to have more of a focus on worldview-challenging and characters. (In a “Harry in sci-fi” story, bigger-scale events already in motion in the setting tend to demand attention while, in a “sci-fi discovers Harry”, the meeting of two very different worlds tends to be the whole point of the plot.)
Best of the Best
- Culture Shock by Ruskbyte
- Length: 72,186 Words
Crossover: The Culture series by Iain M. Banks
Status: Incomplete (and not updated since 2008)
- I’m going to start with a warning that, despite its length, this story is little more than a first act and hasn’t been updated since 2008. That said, the fact that I’m still recommending it should say a lot.
- This is the story which started my interest in sci-fi crossovers and, at the same time, introduced me to Mr. Banks’s Culture novels.
- As the story opens, Diziet Sma and Skaffen-Amtiskaw are responding to a report that a 15-month-old boy somehow linked into the hyperspace grid in a place which local records call “Godric’s Hollow”. After investigating what became of the child, they decide, both for his own well-being, and to satisfying their curiosity, they will raise him in The Culture. Things then skip to shortly before Dumbledore and 12 others unexpectedly drain themselves to near death when performing a ritual to turn Harry’s Hogwarts letter into a portkey capable of reaching through the powerful wards which, after all, must be the reason Harry cannot be tracked to any point on Earth.
- What makes this story so delightful is how entertainingly it blindsides both sides with challenges to their worldviews once things get going. By the time Harry’s Hogwarts letter arrives, his hyperspatial abilities (eg. apparation) are well-understood by those who raised him (though they have failed to produce clones which reproduce them)… yet they are completely puzzled when they encounter aspects of this “supersitition” and “nonsense” which are a full-blown Outside Context Problem.
- I love stories where people where highly-intelligent, rational, scientifically-minded, mature adults (ie. Star Trek: TNG or better) have to come to terms with magic not just being some biological expression of an aspect of physics they already know… and it’s not just the author’s excuse to work out their frustrations at science not taking their faith as seriously as they do. There’s just something deeply satisfying about watching professional researchers (or equivalent) react to having their worldview turned on its ear by an author who truly understands that science is a method of inquiry, not a belief system, but doesn’t get so caught up in it that they cast all examples of magic as new expressions of known scientific phenomena.
- (I think it’s at least partly for the same reasons Sherlock Holmes is so fascinating: It’s a challenge despite how visibly competent the characters are and how much the author reveals to the reader, rather than just being a case of the author implicitly saying “take my word for it”.)
- As far as the feel of the story goes, it’s unarguably intended to feel like a Culture story first and foremost and, while it’s been a while since I read a Culture novel, what I do remember is a pretty good match: A delightful blend of light-feeling fiction, mostly serious, but with a dash of humour her and there, which works beautifully for this kind of “challenged worldviews” story.
- If you’ve never read a Culture novel, let me give you one example to whet your appetite: The A.I.s (called Minds) which run the ships and space stations choose their own names… and they choose names like “Artificial Stupidity”, “Just Passing Through”, “Your Mother”, and “Stood Far Back When The Gravitas Was Handed Out”. (The last being one of a series of names chosen in response to complaints that names of Culture ships should have more gravitas.)
- I’ve re-read it multiple times and my only complaint is how little of the story arc Ruskbyte wrote out within the 72,186 words he gave us. Nonetheless, if you don’t mind reading fics incomplete enough to tease like this, I still highly recommend it.
- Blue Magic by Tellur
- Length: 219,849 Words
Crossover: Mass Effect
- If I had to pick a single “sci-fi discovers Harry Potter fic” to take first place, I’d pick this one in a heartbeat.
- The initial setup for the story goes as follows:
- When a 90-year-old Liara T’Soni suggests to her mother that their stealth technology is advanced enough that it could be used to more effectively ease new species into Galactic Society, she never expects to be given a top-secret assignment to study the species of the recently-discovered GT89534 (A.K.A. Earth), nor to serendipitously observe young Harry Potter’s use accidental magic to apparate onto the school roof. Oh, sorry, his display of biotics on a planet without eezo.
- Being still young and inexperienced as Asari go, Liara’s resolve to follow instructions doesn’t last long when her increased scrutiny forces her to witness the actions of Dudley’s gang. The result? One scared-off gang, one Harry Potter who’s jumped to the conclusion that he’s met a Jedi, and one slightly overwhelmed Liara revealing far more than she should about the real state of things, just in time for Benezia to discover what has happened.
- Well, with Harry befriending Liara and medical scans showing that he does indeed possess Element Zero (which is actually magic condensed into physical form), despite there being none in Earth’s environment, events start to unfold and Harry winds up secretly and unofficially adopted by the T’Soni family.
- With this setup done, the story can be thought of as having two parts: Before and after Harry’s Hogwarts letter… and both the off-Earth and “during Hogwarts” parts feel like they could carry the story alone.
- Before Harry receives his letter, the story follows the T’Soni cast, occasionally checking in with a young Hermione or a member of the wizarding world (eg. Dumbledore, Ginny, etc.) to tell an engaging narrative of three groups who will then meet and start to interact when Harry reaches Hogwarts age.
- In addition to presenting interesting hints about the greater narrative, such as Harry discovering a mural with a phoenix and a dragon hidden in a Prothean dig site, it also introduces entertaining OCs such as the passing mention of one of young Harry’s acquaintances being a Volus obsessed with extranet gaming, and the introduction of an enjoyable Quarian OC as a friend of Liara’s, originally brought in to design an efficient solution for digitizing books borrowed from Earth libraries.
- Once Harry receives his letter, things start to change, with Harry befriending Fawkes during the trip back to Earth and it being revealed that Dumbledore, acting as executor of the Potter will, has gone ahead with his plans to restore Potter Hall in anticipation of Harry’s return. I love the shape things settle into here, with Liara (and others) spending time at Potter Hall while they try to investigate the nature and history of magic, while Harry meets Hermione on the train and sets up another interesting dynamic.
- This is another one of those stories which does a great job of knowing when and how to flesh out its characters and its world and, once the scenes which follow Harry, Liara, and Benezia away from Earth get going, it actually makes a better “Mass Effect side-story” fic than any of the pure Mass Effect stories I’ve yet tried.
- In fact, I’m having trouble coming up with good examples of any type which do this nice a job of making me enjoy just following the characters around.
- That said, while I don’t want to spoil too much, I also love amount of effort that’s been put into reconciling Harry Potter magic with Mass Effect biotics. It’s a delightfully elegant interpretation, the storytelling used to reveal it is satisfying, and “biotics is to magic as crude walking robots are to animal locomotion” is a satisfyingly way of explaining the relationship between magic and biotics and why magic can do so much more.
- Definitely a story I’d recommend and, while the wait since the last chapter means it’s unlikely to be completed, I find that I don’t mind so much. “It’s just enjoyable to hang out with the characters” is a very powerful thing for an author to achieve and, given the hints of the direction it might have intended to go, that might have suffered had it gone on longer anyway.
- Potter Trek by stephenopolos
- Length: 24,423 Words
Crossover: Star Trek (post-TNG/VOY)
- An unspecified amount of time after the end of Star Trek: Voyager, the crew of the U.S.S. Skyforge fail to disable a damaged Iconian facility which is tearing its planet apart, setting off a sequence of events involving a subspace rift and Section 31 tampering with their computer core. As a result 53 crew members wind up using the pattern buffers as a lifeboat and the ship winds up in orbit around Harry Potter’s Earth, with the ship’s designated ECH unexpectedly having his command access limited by a control program hard-coded to “Return to Earth. If necessary, find a captain who can rebuild the Federation.”
- Arriving just in time to observe the “high-energy emanations” of the fight at Godric’s Hollow, Sky (the A.I.) beams Lily’s body onboard for study and, upon discovering that there is still suppressed neural activity, decides to place her in stasis and tag young Harry with a nanite-based transponder in case revival can be achieved.
- The story then time-skips seven years forward to Harry, in his cupboard, engaging in one of his favourite past-times: Listening to Star Trek: The Next Generation when Petunia forgets to turn off the TV. It is now that the story really gets started, as, wWith a wishful thought to prime his magic, and the phrase “Emergency beam out” from the show, the transponder switches out of surveillance mode. A dozen quick risk calculations on Sky’s part, and Harry finds himself on the Skyforge where he soon passes out and wakes up under the care of an EMH modelled after Dr. Leonard McCoy.
- The story then alternates between two casts: Harry, as he’s raised by Sky, Bones, and various other holograms on the ship, and the aftermath of his “running away”, which follows people such as the child welfare workers who smell something fishy about the Dursleys’ story, and Dudley after his parents dig a deep enough hole for themselves for him to be sent to St. Brutus’ Secure Home For At Risk Children.
- First, let me say right out that this story has its flaws. That’s why it’s a runner-up. For example, it calls Section 31’s control program a V.I. despite this not being a Mass Effect crossover. Also, it tends to err on the side of exposition and contrivance at times and the use of a holodeck full of OCs does feel a bit like the overuse of the holodeck as a storytelling device in Star Trek: The Next Generation.
- That said, it’s a novel concept and I enjoyed reading it, so I think it deserves a mention. I hope I’m not giving it too much benefit of the doubt, but we’ll see.
- The story arc hasn’t progressed very far yet, but judging by by the way the two narratives have been flowing so far, I’m hoping to eventually see the two groups start to interact.
- Rediscovery by Argonaut57
- Length: 23,482 Words
Crossover: Star Trek: The Next Generation
- This interesting little oneshot explores a different kind of Star Trek – Harry Potter crossover, where first contact and the arrival of alien species so soon after World War 3 spooked the Wizarding World enough to flee from Earth.
- The story aims to be like a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode and the setup is that the Enterprise is bringing a batch of state of the art sensors and probes to study an impenetrable region of space called the Pyrrhus Anomaly, which has remained unchanged since it swallowed up four star star systems (including a Vulcan separatist colony) in the year of the Federation’s birth.
- Given that this is the Enterprise, I think you can guess that unexpected things happen.
- This is another story that, while flawed, is worthwhile for its novelty.
- Looking at the positives, It’s got some interesting world-building ideas and I’ve never seen another “contact fic” which is written as a oneshot akin to a Star Trek episode.
- The negatives are less nebulous, so I can go into more detail: First, it’s a bit too fond of its information dumps. Second, there’s the occasional bit of the author’s headcanon that isn’t ideal. It also has a few minor technical faults, such as missing scene dividers and the use of abbreviations for ranks like “Cmdr”, but I saved the biggest fault for last…
- This is a story that hurts itself by being too desperate to tie things back to events in the canon time period. It incorporates far too many characters with familiar family names, and there’s no way I can imagine to incorporate a subplot where descendants of Death Eaters steal a cloning device to try to bring back Voldemort without it harming the story overall.
- In conclusion, despite its many flaws, the setting is unique enough that I’m happy to have read it for that… I’d just be happier if someone would read it, wait five or ten years, and write a superior version inspired by the faded memories of the bits that work.
This time, I’d like to also spotlight a couple of stories which don’t fit the literal theme of the list, being contemporary non-crossovers rather than sci-fi, but which do fit the more abstract theme of discovery and rational inquiry that helps to make the best of these sci-fi crossovers so good.
- Harry Potter and the Golden Needle by xenocidender
- Length: 97,849 Words
- When the Dursleys leave Harry home alone for a week during the summer after the Triwizard Tournament, he is left alone with his thoughts and his summer Transfiguration homework: An essay requiring that he provide and defend an explanation for Gamp’s Fifth Principle, which states that one cannot transfigure gold. As luck would have it, just after having concluded that no two theories about the principle agree, Harry is reminded of the atomic theory of matter by the TV he forgot to turn off.
- The story does have very enjoyable and witty character interactions, as well as some novel plot elements such as encountering Susan and Amelia Bones after fleeing Dudley’s gang and it does spend a fair bit of time on a subplot with Amelia investigating how Harry wound up with the Dursleys, but it’s Harry’s essay and its implications which give the story its title and earn it a place on this list.
- When Harry arrives back at Hogwarts, Professor McGonagall reveals that, ten years earlier, Professor Vector turned in a very similar conclusion while still a student and asks Harry if he’d be interested in helping her with a research project on the topic, as belief that something can be done is an essential component.
- The rest of the story is split between Amelia Bones investigating Harry’s home situation and focusing heavily on the aforementioned research project, with a backdrop of Dolores Umbridge… and I quite like how the author has clearly put a fair bit of work into world-building. (Especially the scene when Professor Vector engages in world-building expostion disguised as a rant at Umbridge.)
- When the three sides of the story start to converge, it’s because Harry was inspired to think about his Umbridge problem differently due to his interactions with Vector. When Fudge tries to get him up before the Wizengamot, Amelia Bones is ready to interfere because of her pre-existing interest in Harry’s circumstances.
- On the Amelia Bones side, you get to see things like Amelia contacting a friend who works in muggle law enforcement after Harry’s file on the wizarding side is unnaturally sparse. On the project side, the story goes into detail on the mechanics of why previous attempts have failed so disastrously. For example, it actually provides a plausible sequence of arithmantic properties for Gold, based on the relationship between its atomic and molecular structures and various prime numbers. I like that a lot. On the Umbridge side, we get to see the exchanges between Umbridge and Fudge, Fudge and Malfoy, and Malfoy and Riddle which are behind the whole effort, as well as the satisfyingly escalated circumstances that result from Harry being inspired by his interactions with Professor Vector.
- It’s clear that, had the story been completed, skills gained in seeking to manipulate gold would have been The Power He Knows Not, and this is another one of those stories which could have been amazing were it completed, but is still quite a worthwhile read in its incomplete state. It’s also another one of those “I’ve never read anything else quite like it” stories that everyone should at least sample.
- The Perils of Innocence by avidbeader
- This is a story that shouts its intent to be distinctive from the very first scene. It begins at a live-in facility for children with psychological issues, with one of the staff interacting with a young child who isn’t confirmed to be Harry Potter until the second half of the prologue.
- Chapter 1 then time-skips to four years later, when nine-year-old Harry meets Hermione Granger, whose parents are seeking help with her bouts of accidental magic. Thanks to a conveniently inveterate bully, they almost immediately discover that they have a certain often-inconvenient ability in common.
- What follows is a charming first act where two (later three) prepubescent children build a friendship as they work with the staff at the facility to understand and control the mysterious ability they share.
- However, variety is to be had because, a dozen chapters in, their Hogwarts letters arrive and we actually do get to see what I was hoping for when I first found this: A really unique “worldview challenge” moment. In this case, Professor McGonagall getting set up for an interrogation of sorts with some psychology professionals and three pre-Hogwarts students whose skill in wandless magic rivals or surpasses most adults who attempt it.
- …but don’t let that fool you into thinking that it’s rushing them to Hogwarts. It takes just shy of another dozen chapters to get beyond their introduction to the wizarding world and their carefully considered decision to choose Hogwarts over one of the other, smaller schools and their experiences in Diagon Alley.
- All in all, that makes for a story that’s split into equal thirds: Pre-letter, post-letter but pre-Hogwarts, and Hogwarts… and each segment has a subtly different feel, but also a consistently satisfying feel of un-hurried attention to character interaction and unfaltering pragmatism among the cast.
- Like Harry Potter and the Golden Needle, this is another one of those stories where the only bad thing I can say about it is that it’s unfinished… and that, despite it being unfinished, I still found what did get written worthwhile enough to have re-read.