Rational Fic

"But when you look at what Sherlock Holmes does - you can't go out and do it at home. Sherlock Holmes is not really operating by any sort of reproducible method. He is operating by magically finding the right clues and carrying out magically correct complicated chains of deduction. Maybe it's just me, but it seems to me that reading Sherlock Holmes does not inspire you to go and do likewise. Holmes is a mutant superhero. And even if you did try to imitate him, it would never work in real life."

A Rational Fic is one which makes a deliberate effort to reward a reader's thinking. It's the opposite of Bellisario's Maxim. The world-building is intended to stand up to careful thought; the plot is driven by characters or circumstances that themselves are part of the story, the heroes generally think clearly (in ways the reader can follow), and a clever reader can deduce what's hidden or what's coming. Very often, the fic is also intended to teach the reader something about rationality.

One of the first authors to use aspects of rational thinking and non-Aristotlian logic as the basis of their world-building and character interactions was A. E. van Vogt, specifically in the Null-A series. One of those authors who built upon the success of Van Vogt's works to arguably create the genre known as 'rational fiction' was Eliezer Yudkowsky, who wrote the popular piece of Harry Potter fanfiction Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality and put his own views on the subject into The Abridged Guide to Intelligent Characters. A sizeable community of people who write or enjoy this type of fiction exists on Reddit: https://www.reddit.com/r/rational

Rational Fics often have these tropes as their foundation:

Tropes which are common in Rational Fic, but not as central:

Tropes which Rational Fic deliberately avoids:

The number of tropes Rational Fic attempts to avoid which are on the Bad Writing Index might suggest that it is some sort of universal principle of good writing, which is not the case. Even Those Tropes Are Not Bad, and many Rational Fics fail to avoid them in any case, or fall into other traps. The Lord of the Rings would not necessarily have benefited from a clearly explained magic system, nor The Threepenny Opera from a logical Downer Ending, nor The Dark Knight from making The Joker a Well-Intentioned Extremist.

Also note that the occasional appearance of a trope to avoid doesn't prevent the work from being Rational Fic, if it conforms to most of the other tropes.


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    Fanfic (multi-chapter) 

    Fanfic (oneshot) 
  • The Amazing Peter Parker: In which Peter Parker dedicates his life to fighting death after losing his beloved uncle Ben.


    TV Series 
  • Played with on Abed's In-Universe horror tale on the Community Halloween episode "Horror Fiction In Seven Spooky Steps", as well as showing (In-Universe and out) why the Necessary Weasel exists: in his attempt at defying all of the typical Slasher film tropes (specifically those labeled under "Too Dumb to Live"), Abed instead makes the story utterly boring by having the characters rationalize why they shouldn't be doing things that could trigger those tropes, then not doing those things... and then doing nothing else. Understandably, everybody else on the study group acts disgusted after hearing it.
    Annie: Ugh! Do these people ever die or what?!
    Abed: [`Spooky` voice] Eventually... once it had been... earrrrrrrrned!!

  • Fleep: The main character wakes up in a phone booth buried under concrete and has to figure out how he got there and how to escape.
  • Freefall: A lighthearted exploration of the nearer reaches of mindspace, becoming more serious as it goes.
  • Strong Female Protagonist: Alison Green, a collegiate ex-superheroine, tries to discover just what she wants out of life after coming to the realization that superheroes can't really make a difference in the world.

    Web Original 
  • HardSciFiMovies on Twitter - deconstructing famous plots in 140 characters.
  • Heroes Save The World: Across the world, one hundred adolescents unexpectedly find themselves in possession of superpowers, running the gamut from conventional to world-breaking to annoyingly limited. But despite the diversity of powers, certain patterns emerge, and as the Children begin to find each other, they realize that the world itself may be in great peril.
  • Twig, wildbow's third web serial. A GenreBusting/Biopunk novel, set in Alternate History 1920s and focusing on the Lambs — a group of biologically augmented adolescents, experimented on by the biotechnological Academy and working as its spies/investigators. Each member of the group has specialized enhancements, most of them related to their minds. Working as a team, they effecively combine their abilities and creativity to solve problems. The protagonist specializes in social engineering, and frequently uses real-world psychological tricks in the course of achieving objectives.
  • Pact, wildbow's second web serial. A dark Urban Fantasy. The main character discovers upon the death of his grandmother that he has inherited the fortune, and bad karma, of a notable and hated family of demon summoners. Behind the Masquerade, the world is dominated by human magical practitioners and supernatural "Others", who in order to gain and maintain power (and indeed survive) must play according to (and find loopholes in) the very specific magical laws of the universe.
  • Worm by wildbow. A teenage girl discovers that she has superpowers, and sets out to become a superhero. Through a series of unfortunate circumstances and the application of logic and rationality, she and her friends become some of the most powerful supervillians in the world. And then things get dark. Celebrated for being one of the more well-thought out and rational superhero tales out there, where the characters who succeed are not necessarily the strongest, but the best at making the most of their powers.


    Web Video 

Alternative Title(s): Rational Fiction