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.

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.

Examples:

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    Fanfic 

    Literature 
  • 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.

    Music 

    Webcomics 
  • 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.

    Web Original 

Alternative Title(s):

Rational Fiction