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) 
  • Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, the Genre Codifier. COMPLETE.
  • Luminosity, a Twilight fanfic by Alicorn featuring a more self-aware protagonist. COMPLETE.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Optimal: A researcher with a brilliant new A.I. design gets an offer she can't refuse for building that A.I. into Hasbro's forthcoming Equestria Online game. Reality Ensues and keeps ensuing and ensuing and ensuing. COMPLETE.
    "There seem to be a lot of bronies on Less Wrong. This is a trap to sniff them out." — Less Wrong FimFiction Group
  • 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. COMPLETE.
  • Lighting Up the Dark: A rational Naruto fanfic.
  • The Last Christmas: rational!Santa Claus meets neutral!genies. COMPLETE.
  • The Tragedy of Prince Hamlet and the Philosopher's Stone, or, A Will Most Incorrect to Heaven: Featuring Hamlet with utilitarian ethics. COMPLETE.
  • 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. COMPLETE.
  • Shears is a retelling of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic with a rationalist, neurodivergent Twilight Sparkle.
  • 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. COMPLETE.
  • 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)."
  • Clyde's Tales is Fractured Fairy Tales meets My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. An eminently sensible earth pony named Clyde Pie winds up in the middle of numerous fables, myths, and fairy tales—and completely derails them just by being smart and level-headed. It's an open collaboration, so the exact level of rationalism varies from writer to writer, but one of the submission rules is:
    The story should feature a sensible Clyde as the protagonist. Clyde's actions are the focus of the story, and Clyde is never left holding the Idiot Ball.
  • To the Stars depicts a society set in the far future of Puella Magi Madoka Magica, when magical girls managed to turn from outcasts plagued with the need to maintain The Masquerade and a horrible attrition rate to a massive benevolent organization guiding humanity into a golden age... and then having to take on the responsibility for the entire humanity as an Alien Invasion occurs. Much introspection happens as all the main characters have to struggle between the reasonable solution and what they feel is right - a choice made even harder if your powers and your very existence is tied to your emotions.
  • The World is Your Oyster, The Universe is Your Namesake does a take on Steven Universe
  • A More Perfect Union A Fallout 3 fanfic with a rationalist protagonist.
  • Parting the Clouds: An Animorphs AU in which Cassie is recast as a rationalist. Is over 200k words as of this writing.
    • Parting the Clouds manages to stay much closer to the source material than The Reckoning, and have rationalist characters (especially Cassie, but others too), while retaining the specific setup and world of Animorphs as originally laid out by the books. One of the better rationalist stories in that it shows actual downsides to rationalist thought (such as the Animorphs acquiring less morphs since Cassie reasonably believes there may be a limit to the number of morphs). Good at showing the internality of rationalism, and how a setting can have rational characters without needing to be overhauled or majorly altered.
    • Also one of the few Rationalist Fics to have a character 'have' blind spots, recognize them, and realize that it will take extended time and effort to change them. Realistic about the power of unhelpful cognitions in a way many other stories gloss over.
    • Animorphs: The Reckoning takes this a couple steps further, turning all the main characters (good and evil) to rationalists to the extreme. Result: Visser Three is competent, the Yeerks are moving rapidly, and the Animorphs are actually trying to win (but are inexperienced and unprepared).

  • Marked for Death A Naruto quest about a group of missing nins. Sometime, players' plan turned out to not be so great, and thus severe negative consequences can result.
  • Code Geass: The Prepared Rebellion is a take on Code Geass where many characters are smarter and more rational than normal.

    Fanfic (oneshot) 
  • The Amazing Peter Parker: In which Peter Parker dedicates his life to fighting death after losing his beloved uncle Ben.
  • Collision is a Homestuck AU where Trollian couldn't access other universes and the kids discover an interesting exploit in the alchemy system.


    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.
  • 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