"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.
The Genre Codifier
is Eliezer Yudkowsky
, who wrote Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality
and put his own views on the subject into The Abridged Guide to Intelligent Characters
. His interests are probably responsible for some of the genre's incidental characteristics.
Tropes of Rational Fic:
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 troopes.
open/close all folders
- Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, the Genre Codifier.
- Luminosity, a Twilight fanfic by Alicorn featuring a more self-aware protagonist.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Optimal: A researcher with a brilliant new AI design gets an offer she can't refuse for building that AI into Hasbro's forthcoming Equestria Online game. Reality Ensues and keeps ensuing and ensuing and ensuing.
- Pokemon: the Origin of Species: Red's goal isn't to become a Pokemon master, but rather a respected Pokemon researcher.
- Rationalising Death: Death Note fanfiction trying to show what more realistic standards of reasoning would allow the main characters to achieve.
- Branches on the Tree of Time: A Terminator fanfic which demonstrates the real power of time travel.
- Lighting Up the Dark: A rational Naruto fanfic.
- The Last Christmas: rational!Santa Claus meets neutral!genies
- The Tragedy of Prince Hamlet and the Philosopher's Stone, or, A Will Most Incorrect to Heaven: Featuring Hamlet with utilitarian ethics.
- Hogwarts Battle School tries to show combat among wizards a bit more realistically.
- The Metropolitan Man: A Superman fanfic with a rational (but still paranoid and sociopathic) Lex Luthor.
- The Amazing Peter Parker: In which Peter Parker dedicates his life to fighting death after losing his beloved uncle Ben.
- Heroes For Earth is a Captain Planet and the Planeteers fanfic that takes all the heroes and villains of Captain Planet and makes them act rationally in their pursuance of their goals, whether that be in fighting for environmentalism, as with the heroes, or in taking on their enemies and getting profit, as with the villains.
- Collision is a Homestuck AU where Trollian couldn't access other universes and the kids discover an interesting exploit in the alchemy system.
- The Reckoning is an Animorphs AU where "Visser Three is competent, the Yeerks are moving rapidly, and the Animorphs are actually trying to win (but are inexperienced and unprepared)."
- The Last Ringbearer is a perspective shift of The Lord of the Rings to that of a scientifically enlightened Mordor, the original story being Gondorian propoganda.
- The Null-A novels by A. E. van Vogt. Used as a slogan Alfred Korzybski's phrase, "The map is not the territory."
- David's Sling and Earthweb by Marc Stiegler, in which debate-tracking systems and prediction markets respectively are central to the plot.
- Blindsight by Peter Watts
- Mistborn, or practically anything else by Brandon Sanderson. He deliberately constructs magic systems that are internally consistent and can be optimized. Sanderson's First Law is one of his rules.
- Forging Divinity by Andrew Rowe. The characters, especially Jonan, display rational behavior and optimize their abilities.
- The Second Apocalypse by R. Scott Bakker. One of the primary characters, Anasūrimbor Kellhus, is the scion of an isolated sect who have spent millennia making themselves into beings of pure logic.
- 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.
- HardSciFiMovies on Twitter - deconstructing famous plots in 140 characters.
- Twisted: rational!Jafar... the musical.
- A number of stories by Squid314 on LiveJournal, including The Last Temptation of Christ, The Girl Who Poked God with a Stick, The Story of Emily and Control, and Soul Cancer.
- Transhumanist Fables, Darker, Edgier, and more Transhumanist versions of common fables. Watch out for Spoof Aesops.
- Three Worlds Collide, a story about Starfish Aliens and ethics in the future.
- The Cambist and Lord Iron: A fairy-tale of economics.
- Fine Structure
- Ra, where magic is the unholy combination of particle physics, fluid dynamics, and bizarre programming languages.
- City Of Angles, taking place in a twisted and dreamlike mirror of urban reality.
- Floating Point, a world Inside a Computer System populated by living A.I.
- Saga Of Soul, a rational take on a Magical Girl Warrior defending Tokyo from the Monster of the Week. It constantly flips the Decon-Recon Switch in showing how seemingly superfluous elements of the genre can make sense.