"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 his idea of what a Rational Fic
. His interests are probably responsible for some of the genre's incidental characteristics.
Tropes of Rational Fic:
Tropes which are very common in Rational Fic, but not part of what makes it Rational:
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. This 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
. Lord of the Rings
would not have benefited from a clearly explained magic system, nor 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, it just makes it not quite as good a Rational Fic as it could have been.
open/close all folders
- 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.
- HardSciFiMovies on Twitter - deconstructing famous plots in 140 characters.
- Twisted: rational!Aladdin ... 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
- 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.