>Is Harry Potter Steam Punk?

I did a slightly tongue in cheek post on the ROR blog asking if Harry Potter was Steam Punk.

It generated a lot of discussion so I thought I’d throw it out for you guys.

They ride to school on a steam train.

They attend boarding school full of tradition.

They learn latin and wear antiquated uniforms.

They use weird and wonderful machines, which are not powered by steam but by magic.

And don’t get me started on how Harry Potter is really Enid Blyton’s Famous Five with magic!


  1. >I hadn't thought about it, but all the little gadgets and magic tech are pretty period, aren't they?I'm not real familiar with the genre, any reading recommendations?

  2. >Steam Punk seems to be gathering steam, if you'll forgive the pun. I've seen calls recently specifically for this genre.Matapam, Richard Harland's new book, WORLDSHAKER, aimed at 11 – 14 year olds is steam punk. You could say Steam Punk is an alternate time line, where Victoriana technology went ahead.

  3. >DUH. And yes, when I read it, it's not even famous five, it's the Four Towers (I THINK) boarding school stories, by EB.Don't get me wrong, I liked HP, but I kept going "what do you mean it's the most original thing since the invention of fire? It's Enid Blyton iwth magic. Even the same stock chracters." (except for the villains.

  4. >Sarah – yes! Harry Potter is English Boarding School Adventure with extra magic. You have the status-conscious villain (who in fanfic is rendered hothothot by the addition of leather pants – see http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/DracoInLeatherPants for more than you ever wanted to know about the phenomenon, and don't blame me if the site sucks you in!), the geeky kid with all the book-learning (right down to the vague sense that all that reading can't possibly be a good thing), the Hero whose main purpose is to be Good while breaking rules and generally wreaking havoc in a good cause,the horrible teacher, the dry but vaguely sympathetic teacher, etc etc etc. I'm not sure there's a single boarding school adventure cliche that didn't make it in there.Can you tell I used to devour these things? There's certainly a superficial steampunkyness to the books, but I'm not sure that they count because the underlying basis is magic and not Victorian-era-plus-some tech.

  5. >Whoa,Now that you mention it, you're absolutely right. And the muggle technology tends to be treated by wizards a lot like we view victoriana now.

  6. >Sarah, I felt the same way when I read Phillip Pullman's Dark Materials trilogy. Literary types from outside spec fic were claiming it was brilliantly original.And yes, HP is boarding school stories with magic. Mind you, in this latest movie there's a lot of snogging. I don't remember any snogging in those 1950s stories.

  7. >As someone probably said, "Those who do not read historical fiction are condemned to regurgitations of it."

  8. >hmm. Well I think it shows that publishers were wrong and there was still a market for the standard EB style boarding school story, with a reason to be – magic. Steam-punk is IMO about a nostalgia for a better simpler (and less pC?) world. So it fits in with Enid's work… Not that I'm dissing it. I'd rather kids read that than nothing, and some move on to DWJ 🙂

  9. >Rowena,Considering they were all girl or all boy schools, snogging would have been disturbing! Way too progressive for early twentieth century. 🙂 Mind you, if there had been fanfic…

  10. >Dave,I grew up on Enid Blyton and when the kids came of age to read I went and found the Famous Five and — my favorite — the adventure series. I don't know if Eric ever got that much into it, but Robert loved them. They are, I suppose, at this time historicals. But they teach some very basic values. Self reliance. Fair play. Not whining. Those were values I wanted the boys to learn, and it seems to have worked.And you're absolutely right. Publishers are wrong. Kids still want this and would still read re-imagined versions. (Not the updated versions where the kids all have ipods. yewch.) Just like adults still want historical mysteries and cozies and space opera, but the enlightened have decided it's bad for us and gives us cavities or something.I'm more upset at the current state of the offerings as a reader than as a writer. It's getting harder to come out of the bookstore with an armload of books. And books are ALMOST my sole recreation.

  11. >Yeah, Sarah, my kids read and liked the famous five, Biggles and lots more 'rubbish'. They moved on. I have no problem with hp. I do have a problem with being told it was so innovative and different!!! Either critics and publishing are worse read than i imagined, or they didn't have the testicular fortitude to turn around and say oops, actually it's the same stuff we've dripped scorn on for 50 years…

  12. >Speaking of steampunk, I'd be absolutely remiss in my duties if I didn't point folks in the direction of the "Girl Genius" webcomic at http://www.girlgeniusonline.com. Yup, it's a time-sink that'll gobble up the hours like nobody's business, but you'll thank me for this later. Those of you who are familiar of this comic know what I'm talking about 😉

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