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Why 'Rational Fiction' is inherently problematic

Discussion in 'Fiction Discussion' started by Jemnite, Dec 21, 2016.

  1. Velorien

    Velorien

    Location:
    UK
    As has been argued above, while character behaviour should naturally derive from their motivations and the surrounding conditions, chance and its effects are only ever deliberately introduced by the author. Ratfic merely specifies that the author should not use chance to resolve the plot such that characters' own efforts are cheapened or made meaningless.

    Having chance interfere in your plans and be forced to adjust them on the fly is great. Chance then wrecking your plans because you didn't think through the various ways they could go wrong is also entirely plausible and realistic. Having chance say "nope, your otherwise clever plan doesn't work because author fiat" is less great. That goes double the other way: "your plan deserved to fail but succeeds because of chance" is deeply unsatisfying in a ratfic. Valuable dramatic device, sure, but keep doing it and the reader ceases to be invested in the character's efforts because success turns out to be random rather than earned.
     
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  2. Quantumsheep

    Quantumsheep Rank Amateur

    Location:
    _
    I realize this point has been repeated many, many times, but it's both fundamental to the discussion at hand and very important, so I'm going to keep harping on it.

    The only way you can coherently talk about elements of a narrative arising naturally as opposed to those only ever deliberately introduced by the author is if you go back to the idea of stories being written by way of random number generators. If you want to make the argument that ratfic should write character behavior as deterministically as possible and exempt matters of chance as a concession towards artistic effect, ok, fine. I think that's rather convenient, more power to you. But that determinstic approach should never be mistaken as being somehow distinct from a deliberate writing process on the part of the author.
     
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  3. Velorien

    Velorien

    Location:
    UK
    I think perhaps there's some miscommunication going on here. When I say "character behaviour should naturally derive from their motivations and the surrounding conditions" I mean nothing more or less than "a character should act in-character at all times". I believe this to be a basic rule of good fiction, not just ratfics.

    So in a non-ratfic, if the writer wants a character to do X in a certain scene, then they need to write the character in such a way that X is the natural thing for them to do under those circumstances, and would have been all along. In a ratfic, you de-emphasise the "writer wants a character to do X" angle, and instead try to separate "here is how the character has been written" and "here is how the setting has been written", and base the outline of the plot on how the two would naturally interact. The process is fundamentally the same between ratfic and non-ratfic (if you want the right thing to happen, make sure you place the right character in the right circumstances), and the outcome is hopefully the same (the story that the author wants to tell), but the angle of approach is different.

    As for chance, it doesn't really enter into character behaviour. It enters into the other part, the setting/circumstances. Chance can generate circumstances for the character to respond to, but in a ratfic, it shouldn't eclipse the character's agency (in the sense that a deus ex machina eclipses a character's agency).
     
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  4. Random832

    Random832

    Location:
    Jemnite, I think you just got called out.

    This is something that always needs to be said when an improbable event is the premise for a story (that said, my problem with TWD is that from what I've seen there is not a single decent person left alive except maybe the protagonists, and I haven't seen enough to be sure of them. I mean the few episodes I've caught read more like "what if a plague selectively killed everyone who's not a total dick", and frankly that story would work almost as well if the people it killed were dead-dead instead of zombies.)
     
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2017
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  5. I know you're mostly making a joke, but GRRM kills specific characters for a reason, not at random chance -- mostly, to subvert what you expect.

    uh, spoilers ahead

    Red Wedding happened because it was unexpected, and subverted the expected narrative of "young king gets his shit together, lays seige to the Evil Palace, and saves the Damsel(s) in distress". That one fucking Martell that got burned to death by a dragon was there to subvert "young prince discovers hidden talent and Destiny." Dany's struggles in Mereen are (ostensibly) to make her grow as a character and become a viable Queen of Westos. Ned Stark dies to shock you.

    It's also a warning to other authors -- you can see the narrative wheels of GRRM's story spin due to him aggressively fucking his own plot over to fuck with you.
     
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  6. Yes. These are good Doylist reasons for these events, but there are also solid Watsonian explanations for them as well. It's not just "Robb dies to show us the young king storyline is false" but also because he broke a marriage pact and Walder Frey is a fucker. Quentyn dies because, well, those Dragons were gonna kill whoever came near them no matter what. I am actually a huge Quentyn Martell fan and I think the work GRRM does exploring and examining the tropes of the heroic journey with Quentyn is really some of the best stuff in all of ASOIAF. I highly recommend this set of essays about Quentyn Martell (link).
     
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  7. Sure but GRRM wasn't just rolling dice going "Oops, critical fail, turns out Robb can't convince Walder not to be so mad about this whole thing."

    He made a plausible scenario by which he could drive his themes home. He could have just as easily had the Young Wolf stick to his word, and we'd have a vastly different series.
     
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  8. Yes. I was in agreement with you: I said yes. I want to draw attention to the fact that Watsonian reasons for things happening is distinct from playing dice with the universe. Rejecting the latter doesn't mean you must reject the former. It's important to bear in mind that GRRM has Watsonian and Doylist reasons for most of his major decisions (and no dice-based reasons, which I call separate from these).

    In short: dice bad, Watsonian reasons good; let's make sure we don't mix these up.
     
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2017
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  9. Hotdog Vendor

    Hotdog Vendor Yo momma is fanon

    Location:
    Down Under
    I didn't get a vibe of hyperintelligence from my read of The Martian. Clever use of technology and the limited available resources, and careful planning (with some mistakes) sure, but the sense I got from it was more "NASA does a good job of selecting and training people", not "wow, hypercompetence is triumphing!"
    For all their faults, they let me know that Worm exists, so that's a point in their favour.
    I'm pretty sure that's just a metaphor.
    It can be interesting in-story though. I mean, if you have a story within a story.
    Actually, I remember there was an author who claimed to hear from her characters in the book Redshirts, but when pressed she admitted she didn't mean that literally. (I hope everyone knows what I mean by 'literally' in this context :p)
     
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2017
  10. Admiral Skippy

    Admiral Skippy Labrador Wrestling Champion Moderator

    I once again find myself slightly bemused here. Whilst a simulationist or randomised approach to writing is certainly an interesting topic for a discussion, I'm not sure what it has to do with ratfic per se; neither Luminosity, HPMoR or the Metropolitan Man were written that way as far as I'm aware. Worm had randomised elements for some scenes, with arguable results, but that's kind of a distinct thing.

    I'd agree that there's certainly an emphasis on the idea that the resolution* to important problems, particularly towards the end of the story, should be in some sense deducible by the reader if they put the pieces together, or at least achievable by the character given what we reasonably know already. This is a long way away from surprises not being allowed however; for one thing taken to its logical conclusion that would make it very hard to ever introduce new information except via exposition. This also does not mean that the solutions to problems cannot be surprising, because if the author is clever and takes advantage of the illusion of transparency, they can create a resolution which makes sense but is still really hard to work out.

    *[I use the term resolution rather than solution here because I think the former is slightly conceptually limiting; the central problems of the story do not always have to be solved by the protagonist, and in fact other factors may play a crucial role in the ending along with their actions.]

    In Quests, a simulationist approach can have its virtues think. Note before I continue that I didn't say as opposed to a narriativist approach, because in reality they aren't opposites; they form something of a spectrum. Even the most sandbox-like of simulationist quests still has a human author behind the curtain working out what to fill the random encounter tables with, what to populate the world with, and what other parties will decide to do- or what kind of crude algorithm will motivate their thinking. Likewise, even extremely narrative quests still need to maintain suspension of disbelief, and it helps to feel that the world actually goes on beyond the stage and players that we get to see in a given scene or update.

    Anyway, the primary virtue in my experience is that a GM who treats their secondary world as if it were a real one -and sets up enough detail and rules for it to respond as if of its own accord to the players actions, even though of course this is just an illusion- can actually be surprised by events in their own story. This may sound absurd, but if there is enough richness and texture to the world, enough puzzle pieces floating around, then players can put them together in ways the GM might not expect. It doesn't necessarily even require the players however, as well-designed mechanics which involve an element of randomness can create in-world events and decisions which the GM did not expect, and then has to interpret. At its best, this feeling of surprise can allow the GM to enjoy some of the same feeling of excitement at watching events unfold that their players get, and give players a feeling of achievement at having done something that even the "God" of their imaginary world is impressed by.

    Another benefit is that if it's established sufficiently in advance that the universe behaves more or less as its own entity (or rather that the GM will treat it as if it does), then players tend to get less upset when something ill-advised they do is met with immediate and harsh consequences. It isn't the GM who decided to knock their toys over and kick sand in their eyes, no siree, the GM is a saint and is on the players' side, it's that dastardly no-good Lord Brennus who's to blame! This despite the fact that Lord Brennus -and everyone else in the secondary world- is ultimately just the GM playing pretend. (This is a wonderful illustration of how the human mind loves to anthropomorphise things.) In a similar vein, strong and well-established mechanics which involve randomness won't have the players feeling nearly upset at having random hardships thrown at them suddenly, and those hardships will feel more "real" to the players. If you rolled (6,6,6) on the Winter Weather table and got a harsh blizzard hungry trolls venturing down from the foothills, this feels like a genuine calamity resulting from bad luck, rather the GM trying to stick a hot poker under your backside after you've just improved your fiefdom and hunted in the Greenwoood all Summer and Autumn.

    I think this approach needs to be anchored to a broader sense of narrative direction, which generally comes direct from the GM, or you'll end up with a Quest that seems less like a story and more like a genre fiction soap opera. But in terms of making the day-to-day events feel more alive, and even influencing major plot points in unexpected and exciting ways, it can absolutely have its place.

    Mmm. I agree broadly with what you're saying here but I'm not sure I'd go quite that far. Generally whenever you try to put a fence around what can't be done in literature, some clever bastard will go and find a way of not only jumping over the fence, but finding something important and beautiful to say for which it was necessary to jump it. I suspect the same might hold true for randomness.

    This actually brings to mind the use of randomness as a story-writing technique in a novel called The Castle of Crossed Destinies (which I recall mentioning to you on IRC the other night @Havocfett), written by Italo Calvino, who is usually better known for Invisible Cities. (Invisible Cities is brilliant, but in my opinion you should start with If On A Winter's Night A Traveller.) Apart from more or less being the prefect refutation of a lot of silly ideas about postmodernist literature, Calvino is enthralling and endlessly re-readable in that he constantly sought to explore the boundaries of meaning and what stories mean in his work. In the latter half of his career he often used fantasy as a medium to do this, making him that most rare and wonderful of creatures, a literary fantasy author. The fact that he didn't get a Nobel is almost as galling as Borges not having gotten it, although in Calvino's case that's at least somewhat explained by his untimely and sudden death rather than political prejudice. But anyway, I digress.

    The Castle of Crossed Destinies is a wonderful novel about travellers who meet in a castle -or possibly an inn- inside a deep, dark forest after a long and hard journey, who find that they've lost the power of speech. They endeavour to tell their stories to one another by using tarot cards, arranging and pointing to them in sequence, with each card symbolising a chapter in their journey, and their fellow guests interpreting the meaning as best they can by reading the cards and their relations to one another. There are two parts to the novel, the first (eponymous named The Castle of Crossed Destinies) based on the incomplete Visconti tarot from the 15th century (the earliest tarot deck in existence), and the second (The Tavern of Crossed Destinies) based on the well known Marseilles tarot deck. It's a fantastic exploration on whether meaning is created with words, or with images, symbols and allegories. On another perhaps even deeper level it's an exploration of the writer's art and how all our stories are made of the same fundamental building blocks or symbols which the writer merely deploys and rearranges- and via some strange alchemy creates a new story in the process. A great read which I'd recommend to anyone, not least because each page is accompanied by lovely pictures of the relevant cards, so you get a little childlike thrill of being able to read a grown-up book with pictures.

    Particularly relevant for our purposes is the Note at the end of the novel, in which Calvino discusses the labour of love that was bringing the novel to fruition. Whilst it's a pretty good insight generally into the artistic process and just how much tortured effort it can take to turn that beautiful idea that won't let you go into a finished work, it also mentions how he devised the stories; including the use of randomness. To backtrack a little here, I should mention that both parts of the novel use the whole tarot of cards, and each story is interlinked with the others; that is, each story is a certain journey along part of the array of cards, with many cards shared by as many as three or four different stories, and the journey read backwards signifying a different person's story. (If this seems impossible to visualise to you, then see fig. 1 for the array in Castle, and fig. 2 for the array in Tavern; although be warned that these are essentially spoilers of one of the best parts, I suggest you read the book instead.) The Castle has a slightly more strict rule for how you read than the Tavern, but this is basically true of both.

    Anyway, when he first came up with the idea of using tarots to tell stories, Calvino came up with many arrangements at random, letting the cards fall as they would, and then devised stories from them, whist other stories he had in mind first and then fitted arrangements of cards to. (The Castle in particular is mostly of the former type with only two stories of the latter type, the stories of Roland and Astolpho.) The interdependent and transverse nature of the stories meant that every random story had an effect on the cards in the planned ones, and vice versa. A number of stories which worked visually but did not come to life on the page had to be culled. For The Tavern, which had more stories he wished to fit arrangements of cards to, Calvino experimented with hundreds of arrangements, some eventually growing so complex that they became three-dimensional polyhedra of tarot cards, haunting his waking days and his dreams. It took him some time away from it until he was finally able to resolve The Tavern into its final simpler arrangement, a year later after much effort.

    The interesting bit here from the perspective of this discussion I think is the use of the tarot cards as a machine for constructing stories, and the purposeful use of randomness therein. This does seem to be a good example of a use of randomness for a legitimate artistic purpose in writing; if all the tarots were mapped to pre-planned stories, then apart from the arrays almost impossible to construct whilst retaining their integrity, you would lose many themes of the novel. It's a tricky question as to how one might take randomness of a form more similar to that you were discussing, something like dice rolls deciding story events, and bend it towards a legitimate artistic purpose. I actually had an idea along those lines, but I'm tired and it's late so it will have to wait.


    A small bit of LotR pedantry here; as I recall it was actually Elrond (with some small assistance from Gandalf) who roused the Bruinen into a torrent to overthrow the Nazgul, rather than Glorfindel. Glorfindel however did play a major role earlier as you note, and was revealed to be extremely formidable.
     
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  11. foamy

    foamy Lying liar who lies. Executive Director

    You are correct and that was my error, as I didn't double-check the details before posting.
     
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  12. Spoit

    Spoit

    Location:
    US
    Oh hey, the thread is unlocked. A few random, half remembered points I had from while it was locked (and yeah, I kinda lost track of the conversation since then, so mea culpa if these points were already argued to death):
    • If pretty much everyone agreed that the OP was talking about rationalists, rather than rational fiction (and that whole side issue of how MoR, while being the codifier, may actually be a bad example of both), why was there so much arguing about the definition of the 2nd type? That is, instead of just accepting the imprecise definition for what it was, and trying to qualify the disagreements over the -ist type stories? (And all the arguments that follow are directed at the -ists, not the -als)
    • Though that said, because so much attention was spent on the not-ist type of fiction, I'm not actually sure what that -ist is by comparison. Other than that the r/rational people keep trying to disavow any connection to it, and to MoR specifically.
    • And for that matter, why you guys keep trying to disavow it. Was MoR really not involved, in any way, with the creation of the r/rational community? It just seems strange that you keep refuting the claims that you're saying that rational fiction is good fiction, or vice versa, when you go out of your way to try to excise a problematic part of your history.
    • I'm not sure why people keep claiming that people said that the labels only apply to fan fiction? Sure, there's a lot of arguments over if some litfic or whatever does/doesn't qualify under whatever definition is being used by that poster, but I don't think that anyone was arguing that mother of learning qualified. (And for the record, I never really associated it with that)
    • Honestly, the main problem I have isn't the works themselves, but rather the general tenor of the community around them. For the most part, the people here have been really civil and constructive, especially @Blazinghand. But that link to the reddit thread that paralleled this? Yeah, the condescension there was pretty palpable, not to mention the whole 'organizing forum raids' thing, which is usually frowned upon in most other, civil communities.
    • I did find it kind of ironic that the comments I skimmed there seemed to be based almost entirely around appeals to emotion. It seems kinda counter-intuitive? Regardless, it looked like pretty textbook in-group cheering/out-group jeering from my cursory skim of the posts. I especially liked how they made snide comments about straw-manning....while doing that selfsame thing!
    • Maybe I'm just being overemotional, but to me, it felt like that thread perfectly encapsulated that whole "sneer culture" ingroup thing. (and I'm probably using that term wrong, but to be honest, I really don't care about reappropriating it). Using a totally unscientific guesstimate, maybe half the posts there were basically pointing and laughing at just how dumb these people are for not agreeing with us. With again, judicious uses of strawmaning (while complaining about it)
    • I did find it kind of weird that EagleJarl apparently had some pretty strong opinions about this thread, but as far as I can tell, didn't really come in to argue in good faith about it? Even when Marked for death was the main topic of discussion. It looks like he made like...an order of magnitude more posts in the reddit thread complaining about this thread, than actually engaging here?
    And since asking for credentials was an issue before, I guess I'll list the -ist fics that I've read (and pretty much universally dropped in disgust)?
    1. MoR. Which, okay, you can say is a bit of an outlier, but as the codifier for most of this shit, you have to recognize will be the one that most people immediately think of when the R words are spoken, for good or (mostly) for ill. I dropped it when it had that whole "battle school" plot line, because that was where it was obviously going to be more about proselytizing than actually trying to tell a story.
    2. Si Vace Pacem, and it's pre-rewrite version. Which, honestly I'm not sure really qualifies, but the author self-identifies as one, so I'll give him that at least. And to be honest, most of the problems are because it's just a horribly written, and more importantly plotted story written by an author who has skin thinner than an onion. While ultimately it was the author's A/N and review replies that drove me off, in terms of the actual story, my #1 complaint was that things were happening (along the railroad of canon) strictly because of author fiat. Which is like, antithetical to the rationalist mission statement? But again, he self identifies as a rationalist, and I've seen other people mention it as one, so I'm including it for the sake of completeness. And again, it's pretty poorly written all around.
    3. 2 Year Emperor. Which, okay, I guess I finished? Mostly out of inertia more than anything. It was recommended as something in the vein of "HP and the Perfect 20", but lacked most of the charm and humor of the former. And then it quickly lost focus and became much less coherent in the second half.
    4. Team Anko. I don't really recall why I dropped it, but I do remember getting fed up a couple chapters into the sound village arc. And that it dissuaded me from ever even opening Marked for Death (and this thread has pretty much confirmed that MfD is not for me).
    5. Mother of Learning. Which again, I hadn't even realized was a rational(ist?) work. To be honest, the mere conceit of a groundhog day loop would satisfy half the bullet points: by making the basic assumption that the world state is demonstrably testable and deterministic, you have the ones about "stuff happening for a reason", consistency, and puzzle box categories satisfied, almost by definition. That said, maybe I missed something, but even as we found out more about the motivations for the cultists, it still feels like the main reason they wanted to do stuff was 'for the evuls'? Maybe it'll be clarified more later. And then there's this recent thing where he's balking at taking the rational route to maximize his power, because of those pesky moralisms, even though he recognizes that it's a waste of his limited resources (of time).

      Anyway, one of the main things that stuck out to me with it (in a good way) was that it actually took the main theme of Groundhog Day to heart. While sure there was a lot of circular wandering for world building, and min/max power grinding slash munchkinry, the more important part was that Zorian had character, as well as power, development. He originally started kind of like an aloof logic-bot, but as the loops developed, he actually has started to connect to other people on a personal level.
     
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  13. I'm not 100% sure since I haven't really put time into its definition, but I'd say rationalist fiction is fiction that explicitly tries to use rationalist knowledge and techniques (as you'd see on EY's website). The characters explicitly mention or use this knowledge or philosophy, and the work also attempts to teach and promote it. Rationalist fiction is explicitly and clearly going to the mat for EY-style rationalism and attempting to teach it. This is distinct from my definition of r/rational fiction, which you can find here: A revised definition of r/rational fiction.

    Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality is absolutely involved in the history of r/rational fiction and rationalist fiction. Doesn't mean it's necessarily good or I like it, but it's very involved. Now, I've put a lot of effort into defining r/rational fiction, and if people say "don't you mean good fiction when you say r/rational fiction" I feel a need to refute that. I bring up HPMOR in response to this and explicitly mention that it's something covered by my definition because I think many people here agree that HPMOR is both r/rational / rationalist, and ALSO not good. It is an important example to show that my definition of r/rational fiction isn't literally just "good fiction" so yes I will mention it, as it falls in one category and not the other.

    I would like it to apply to original fiction and my definition is not meant to narrow it to fan fiction. However, some other people here (primarily, I think, people who are not big fans of r/rational fiction) believe it only applies to fan fiction. I do not speak for them.

    Thanks for the mention! I think part of what's going on here is *battens down hatches* the SV and r/rational communities are actually pretty similar. ()

    I doubt I'm the only point of overlap, and I guess up until this point I wasn't really aware there'd be such a clash. Like, in terms of "nerdy people who ilke fanfiction and talking pedantically / in an organized way about things" I think r/rational and SV have a lot in common. Probably both communities just have bad opinions of each other so they show up and sneer and yell at each other. I mean, heck, the title of this thread isn't "a discussion on rationalist fiction" after all.

    A thing that's going on here is something like what it means to be a nemesis, something like what it means to be a heretic. After all, the advantage heresy has over heathenism in gaining our hatred is a establishing a common ground in which to plant the flag of hatred. And a nemesis (in a modern sense) is not someone who is unlike you in all ways, but a dark mirror; a nemesis has enough traits in common to be your equal and opposite. The greatest shitfights I've seen in internet communities I've been in have been with those in adjacent communities or subgroups of the same community (and I am being very careful not to name any community in particular here) that do not hew to the same orthodoxy as the rest of them.

    In any case, in my boundless wisdom I remain civil. Why? Because I'm just awesome this way :V
     
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  14. Vindictus

    Vindictus Monster in Disguise

    Location:
    Texas
    Honestly, I'm not sure that was for the best.

    IIRC, Wildbow admitted at one point that he'd planned for Taylor dying in the Leviathan segment, and to switch the viewpoint character over to Aegis. Instead, Aegis dies in a Bakuda Bomb, and Taylor continues being... Taylor. While I'm generally happy with how Worm turned out in the end, I can't help but think that his original plan might have ended up with a more interesting story.
     
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  15. Gaining power is one of Zorian's goal, but he is also concerned that he will become a moral monster by doing certain actions. That's completely rational to me.

    Put it this way: Power is not the only goal worth aiming for. Not being completely dehumanized or devoid of compassion is another one.
     
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  16. Vindictus

    Vindictus Monster in Disguise

    Location:
    Texas
    Personally, I view the dividing line on how blatant the author is about promoting his or her worldview.

    Don't get me wrong, everyone has a worldview- and, when writing, that worldview always influences things. That's why literature classes talk about a writer's milieu- The socio-cultural environment in which they lived- at the same time they discuss their works. Usually, this sort of thing is in the background of the work- You can read Kafka's Metamorphosis without needing to know how it incorporated Marxism, Modernism, and Freudianism in the text, for example- but when it comes to 'ratfic', the subtext has been taken out of the background and set into the foreground, becoming the actual text.

    Both ratfic and ratsfic are coming from the same fundamental worldview. The difference is that ratsfic are explicitly promoting their worldview, while ratfic simply take it for granted that their worldview is correct.

    I mean, don't get me wrong- When I first read it, I thought MoR was a really cool idea, and that the idea of promoting a materialistic/scientific worldview through popular fanfiction was really neat and innovative. Then I grew up, took a core literature class or two, and realized that past me was stupid.
     
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  17. Why the focus on the hyperintelligence vibe? How does this relate to ratfic?

    For what it's worth, worm isn't actually considered 'rational' by some on r/rational. Well liked and well written yes, but not ratfic.
     
  18. Vindictus

    Vindictus Monster in Disguise

    Location:
    Texas
    Like it or not, MoR is the original ratfic- To steal a bit of terminology, it is the trope maker and codifier.

    A significant element of MoR is how frequently and openly the text congratulates Harrymort for being incredibly, unrealistically smart- Which, given he is a thinly disguised expy of the author, seems rather masturbatory.

    Fans of the Methods will insist that this isn't the case. "Hermione is smarter," or "But Harry made mistakes" are common responses to this criticism. Well, we're told Hermione is smarter, but aside from one or two places, the text treats Hermione as the Watson to Harry's Sherlock, a reasonably competent and intelligent person who the far smarter protagonist can espouse their superior ideology to, and as far as mistakes are concerned, even Harry's mistakes are generally treated as opportunities to show how smart Harry is, rather than a sign he's less intelligent than the rest of the text says.

    Because MoR is basically what you can expect an outsider to have been exposed to, their assumptions will be based off of it.
     
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  19. Velorien

    Velorien

    Location:
    UK
    As a fan of the work, with all its flaws, I don't think it's Harry's intelligence that's called into question. Rather, his flaws include being the supreme emperor of motivated cognition, a desperate lack of empathy, inability to model others as more intelligent than him (except Professor Quirrell whom he not undeservedly puts on a pedestal) and a perpetual need to boost his ego through intellectual triumph.

    Now, you could argue that these flaws in themselves cast his intelligence into doubt, but I think it's more accurate to say that his intelligence isn't universal (but there are areas in which he is brilliant), and more subject to cognitive biases than he realises (i.e. like the rest of humanity).

    As for Hermione, no, she's not smarter. But she's still smart, and merely held back by normal human limitations (mainly being a plausible 11-year-old girl, or at least how the author conceives of a plausible 11-year-old girl), whereas Harry is not, but at the same time lacks normal human advantages like common sense.

    And of course all these are exaggerations for the purposes of argument. There are times when Harry is foolish. There are times when Harry questions his rationalist beliefs. Et cetera. The overall trends are undeniable, but we do the work a disservice in caricaturing it to make a more general point.
     
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  20. Dark Lord Bob

    Dark Lord Bob Ambition

    It depends what you mean by intelligence. Hermione isn't as effective as Harry, but Harry is trained in 'rationality' which the story is written to treat as the most effective way of doing things. Hermione is able to read and comprehend books fast enough that even by cheating with a time-turner Harry can't keep up.
     
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  21. Night

    Night Knight One-One

    Location:
    Jaburo
    Nothing in your post is in contradiction of Vindictus', or engages with his arguments. At best you are orthogonally approaching his second paragraph, but with the implicit assumption that these flaws are bugs rather than features; that they do not form failures on the authorial level, that they are not being intentionally espoused by the author, that they are not teachable moments engineered for the sake of evangelizing the author's worldview (like the rest of the story).

    It seems very likely many of the things you cite can be explained under these issues. As an example: Harry's failures with human emotion clearly mirror those of his author, as demonstrated by everyone else tending to react as though they are normal behavior, and several edits having been made based on the feedback of others pointing out that characters were not displaying an emotional range suitable to them.

    (This opens up the interesting point that the author was struggling to write others this way, but deliberately refused to do so for Harry; they saw making him poorly equipped in this sense as desirable. Is it to be emulated? Is it one of those amateur-for-amateurs "I've got a Mary-Sue checklist open in another monitor" things where it's supposed to make him a better character somehow? Given the extensive notes this is probably said somewhere.)
     
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  22. Instead of answering in detail, let me just link a post I made on /r/hpmor: HPMOR Fandom and the Layman's Fallacy.

    Selected quotes:

     
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  23. Omicron

    Omicron "I already have dragons, I do not want men." Councillor

    The Coeurl is one of my favorite sci-fi antagonists and I wish it would have won.
     
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  24. Your mistake there was referring to people who disagree with you as a hatedom. That's not going to endear anyone to your way of thinking in any context, but especially not in a 57 page thread started by a massive meme machine.

    (ilu @Jemnite :3 )

    This reminds me of a couple of things I had swirling around my brain bowl earlier.

    As regards the whole Calvino thing, i.e. using symbolically charged elements as a means of communicating fresh and unrelated ideas where no intervening method of direct communication exists (oh shit lost my voice better use these Tarot cards!), I'm reminded of the portions of Gene Wolfe's The Book of The New Sun where the Ascian language is spoken, particularly during the story telling contest at the convalescent's camp in book 4, The Citadel of The Autarch. The rearrangement of preexisting forms (in this case, rote-memorised quotes from state propaganda) into configurations that convey entirely new meanings is probably Wolfe's best trick of authorial legerdemain, albeit somewhat less heroically conceived and executed given that he includes a running translation in the dialogue.

    Calvino was an absolute madman, certainly.

    Speaking of absolute madmen, the second thing I wanted to mention for no raisin was The Dice Man (1971, William Morrow publishing), written by George Cockcroft, alias Luke Rhinehart.

    Based on the author's own experience of using dice rolls to determine particular decisions in life on any given day while studying psychology, the story follows a man who uses randomisation of choice to break out of the stifling straitjacket that society has built for him. Depravity, naturally, ensues. It's been pretty well received as a work of literature, since been declared a cult novel by people high and low all over the shop, got banned in quite a few places when first published, and usually makes/made best novel lists, or at least it did during the backside of 20th Century.

    It's relevant for a couple of reasons beyond the obvious implicit recommendation: firstly, it's probably a good example of some clever bastard jumping the literary fence that most authors benefit from staying inside; secondly, it's further proof of the idea of randomisation in storytelling existing a good long while before the internet and RPG nerds got on that train; thirdly, its numerous tv and stage spinoffs, sequels, failed movie adaptations, Discovery television series starring Russell Harris, and the author's own convictions on the subject after 'dicing' in his day to day life and in his writing are more grist for the mill labelled "this shit doesn't always work narratively unless you really know what you're doing and also ignore the randomiser if necessary".

    Chance is a fine god and a bad editor, and the hand that rolls the dice may also have to cover them from time to time.

    or something idk back to your regularly scheduled argument with a bookclub
     
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  25. Reveen

    Reveen Dunked On

    He sure as hell better. Because holy good goddamn was he grating to read about in the first chapter. He's such a complete shit to his family that I actually kinda broke my SoD that his mother didn't slap him at some point. Some people say they can't stand how Taylor acts in the beginning of Worm and I don't get it, but Zorian just blasts through my tolerance threshold. It's not like he's actually troubled or is in an actual rebellious phase which would contextualize it and make him more interesting. He's just a little shit.

    The initial setup of the world wasn't all that great either. It's the first chapter and I have no idea what the feel of the setting is supposed to be, what time period it's aesthetic is based on aside from "Has trains it it", and the magic so far is... nothing, pretty much. Harry Potter's magic comes screaming out the gate and you know exactly what it's like. This fails at that.

    Whatever, maybe it gets better. But this as first impression go this is sub-par at best.

    Man, I can't. Because for me the story is defined by Taylor's supporting cast. Without Lisa, Rachel, or Aisha it wouldn't be the same story. That's why the part of the story surrounding the timeskip just doesn't have the spark of everything that preceded it.
     
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