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Nov 10th 2016 at 3:09:20 AM •••

If this could be added to the list of completed multi-chapter Rationalist Fics! :)

The Waves Arisen: A Rational Naruto Fic

Sep 9th 2016 at 9:14:09 AM •••

I definitely think the work of van Vogt needs to be recognised as an important precursor to the creation of rational fiction, and have updated the post accordingly. This has been modified from a previous amendment which was rewritten over with no discussion

Edited by PavlovsDogofWar Hide/Show Replies
Sep 9th 2016 at 9:43:01 AM •••

From what I've gathered, it's only the Null-A series, not his entire body of work, that counts here. In fact from what I've read, a lot of his other works are far from rationalist. I think the stuff about his literary merit and influence on other sci-fi writers (who are not Rat Fic writers) is kind of excessive as well, seeing that they have little to do with the topic, and we already have an article on A. E. van Vogt.

I've kept the part about his influence, but mentioned that it's specifically the Null-A works in particular that are an influence, and removed the irrelevant stuff. Hopefully this is a good enough compromise.

About the genre thing, I wouldn't call it a proper genre in the same way that alternate history or cyberpunk are, anyway, and the term "rational fiction" isn't really recognized outside of Less Wrong and the Reddit community centered around it (and now here). Fanfiction can and does have it's own categories though, and I believe Rational Fic got its start (and it's name) from taking "regular" fiction and rewriting it from a rationalist perspective, which would make it a fanfiction category. Now, it's used by a few to describe any work that meets the criteria, fanfic or not, but I wouldn't call it a genre (or subgenre) that applies to non-fanfiction. It's a style at best.

Edited by supergod
Jun 20th 2016 at 2:53:36 PM •••

I was just wondering: What would a Deconstruction of a Rational Fic look like?

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Jul 6th 2016 at 8:28:58 PM •••

Rationalfic frequently bends over backwards to help the protagonist be awesome. It just does so more discreetly than regular fic. Take that away and watch the story catch fire.

The protagonist tries to have a One-Man Industrial Revolution or otherwise revolutionize the setting. But the suckiness of the setting has far too much inertia. It takes decades of research to figure out the tech that could improve matters, butterflies of doom keep messing up big important projects, and eventually the protagonist dies a stupid unlucky death.

Mind you, it'd take some doing to make that story *fun*.

Jul 9th 2016 at 2:30:23 PM •••

In other words, "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court" by Mark Twain, or the short story "Superiority" by Arthur C. Clarke...

Feb 8th 2016 at 10:43:14 AM •••

I believe the web serials on this page are listed in the wrong section. The Web Serial Novel page says "Please note that these works go in the Literature/ namespace, and not Web Original."

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Dec 5th 2014 at 2:40:32 PM •••

Any particular reasons why Homestuck is not there? It seems to fit almost every single trope, and its time travel is half as complex as Primer's.

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Feb 14th 2014 at 2:18:08 PM •••

"Generally rational fiction means that the plot and characters aren't propelled forward by a lack of communication or by idiocy"

Is this accurate? Because it seems like an unnecessary restriction. The underlying concept of portraying intelligent thinking in realistic ways doesn't mean that pettiness and stupidity can't be present — if anything, realistic thinking is plagued by those things, and they frequently do create drama and conflict.

Perhaps this should say that such tropes should be kept to a minimum, or that they shouldn't be used merely as bodges to allow the plot to work?

Feb 9th 2014 at 8:42:38 AM •••

YKTTW crash rescue metathread

Some concerns were brought up in the YKTTW crash rescue thread. Please don't spam that thread if you have any issue.

From larkmon

It just seems way too gushy and not very well-defined. It's tough to glean a definition other than "the characters are smart" and past that it gets... just wanky. But There Is no Such Thing as Notability so I say send it to YKTTW for reworking with a clearer definition, less giving Methods of Rationality a tongue bath, and overall better description (it's full of circular potholes, the groupings of the fics is utterly arbitrary, and there are namespace/emphasis issues).

From supergod

Regarding Rational Fiction, I agree that it seems way too self-congratulatory and it makes it seem that all fiction should be written that way. Also, it's a bit strange that it's two editors that are making most of the edits on the page and linking the article, both of whom have no unrelated edits.

Edit: It does seem to be primarily a Less Wrong concept, especially in relation to that "Methods of Rationality" fic. I know there's "no such thing as notability", but I think a concept that's used mainly in one forum, not very clearly defined, and doesn't seem like something that would have a lot of examples, probably wouldn't thrive.

From Dalek Kan Noladti

To counter the gushing, I'd recommend expanding the part that says, "Be warned". That was a pothole to Internet Backdraft for a reason: while There Is no Such Thing as Notability, this is not a genre that everyone ever is going to enjoy. I also never intended the page to be distinctly "Stuff EY and his gushing followers like", because while I do hang out with that community, I actually have plenty of personal and ideological disputes with the official Rationality Cult myself.

Overall, if there's some way to not be cultish and have a page for a tiny but existent genre of stories that some few people like, that would be cool.

On the upside, since it's at least partially fanfic-focused, it's not like it'll ever be the main thing anyone sees on TV Tropes.

Herp derp.

From Septimus Heap

To me, the gushing comes from the fact that it seems to describe the genre as the only way to make works without Poor Communcation Kills and the like. It sounds very implicit to that page. Also, I see that the issues I pointed out earlier haven't been fixed.

Anyone want to take a crack at turning that into something we can deal with? I'm failing to see a lot of the problems. There's obviously some underlying conflict, but I can't figure out what it is.

There are a lot of complaints about lack of quality and "gushing", both of which I don't really see. Anyone care to try and parse that into specific problems (with examples) or actionable/quantifiable goals?

Edited by Hide/Show Replies
Feb 9th 2014 at 11:48:07 AM •••

I don't think I can explain the objections well, but I do think I understand them intuitively well enough to attempt a rewrite. What would people think of something like this:

Rational Fic

Don't panic. I solemnly swear that there is a logical, foreshadowed, canon-compliant explanation for everything which happens in this chapter. It's a puzzle, you're supposed to try to solve it

—Author's Notes before a particularly weird chapter of Harry Potter And The Methods Of Rationality

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 is here. His interests are probably responsible for some of the genre's incidental characteristics.

<index-like behavior>

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 avoids 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. 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.

Examples of Rational Fic (sorted by medium) include...

Edited by
Feb 9th 2014 at 11:54:38 AM •••

Ignore this comment

Edited by
Feb 9th 2014 at 12:21:59 PM •••

I think dspeyer's revision is very well done. It's not as "entertaining" as the original page to read, but apparently people took that as "wanky," so this more sober, list-based page does a good job of listing clearly what rationalfic stories are and what they're not.

Feb 9th 2014 at 2:00:03 PM •••

I think the text comments under "An Aesop" and "Crazy Prepared" should be taken out, as they suggest that non-rationalfic characters are dumb. While dropping an anvil made of solidified fridge logic on fictional characters is indeed a major component of the standard-issue rationalfic author-tract, it's not actually a very praiseworthy trait of the genre.

Since many rationalfics are fantasy works, I hardly see how authors can Do Their Research about magic systems. We shouldn't imply that they have.

Also, no fair claiming rationalfic avoids The War on Straw when it clearly enjoys dropping anvils more than it enjoys actually steelmanning enemy positions (like non-transhumanists, who are labelled "deathists" and compared to Hitler).

Though it is true that averting Straw Vulcan or The Spock is a major defining feature of rationalfic: "this story is about smart people who actually have feelings and real struggles beyond how well they did in school."

Feb 9th 2014 at 2:29:10 PM •••

I like the idea of sorting the examples by medium, instead of "degree of rationality" or whatever we had before. Overall, your rewrite looks good. Can we implement it yet? :o

(Also, eaturbrainz, fyi, i love what you're doing thus far.)

Feb 9th 2014 at 2:41:29 PM •••

Organizing by "rationality" will cause confusion about what goes where. Let's do with normal media ordering.

Feb 9th 2014 at 4:15:22 PM •••

@Dalek Kan Noladti

Thinking death is an acceptable thing is pretty similar to thinking that the christian god is a thing that exists. Lots of people do it, and there's nothing really wrong with it, but it's not true (from a rationalist position anyway).

There is a distinction, but it's probably hard to see if you're not part of that group. I don't think I've ever seen anyone compared to hitler though. Most of what I've seen has used real arguments by actual deathists. If religion was an issue that needed to be resolved in story then they'd use real religious arguments.

As an aside, souls and an afterlife do exist in the hpmor/harry potter canon. The deathists are correct, but for the wrong reasons, and there's not enough in-universe data to figure that out. If you don't mind hpmor spoilers, take a look at harry potter and the philosophers zombie.

But anyway, "So, you want to bring up politics, or have An Aesop, but can't bring yourself to fairly represent the other side of the argument? You didn't read up on the other side's position, and hope to patch your argument with a little dodgy logic?"

Is very much the opposite of what "rational" is supposed to be. It might still get the wrong answer, but if it's not trying to get the right answer (not using the right methods to arrive at truth) then it's bad at rational. Reading up on the other sides position and figuring out what's true is the important part. Avoiding the war on straw is very much a rationalfic thing.

Edited by
Feb 9th 2014 at 10:50:23 PM •••

I see I'm not getting across what I'm thinking of with Crazy-Prepared. I'll drop it this but put it without the parenthetical in the second trope set. I may need to go to YKTTW for some of the personality attributes of rational heros.

As for research, there can be plenty to do for a fantasy story. See Heirs Of Alexandria for some really well-researched fantasy (not particularly rational, but still). I'll grant a lot of rational fic requires minimal research, but failing to do some that's relevant would be in violation of rationalist community norms. As a side-note, I see the Did Not Do The Research link is dead. What happened to that index? Did it all get folded into Artistic License?

As for straw, I don't think it's fair to characterize death-positivism as "straw". As Hiroe pointed out, arguments tend to be taken from genuine believers. And even so, EY's failure to steelman Dumbledore regarding death is often seen as HP Mo R's biggest failure in being rational fic.

I've also added Rage Against the Heavens, which just occurred to me.

Feb 10th 2014 at 12:49:13 AM •••


We can have the debate, but we agree this particular genre of fiction drops humongous anvils about it, right?

Distinction being, a rationalfic might explicitly go all Author Tract and tell people how to think. However, a TV Tropes page about rationalfic, should not do so.

Further, HP Mo R's "death: for or against?" argument with Dumbledore may be regarded as a failure to steelman, but that still means it attacked a strawman, relatively speaking. We shouldn't be so arrogant as to assume that we're right about everything, because that's exactly how you end up conducting a War On Straw. A merely good "rationalist" might steelman his opponent's position before attacking it, but a really clever one should be looking over his shoulder for the next guy to come along and say, "Ha! You call that steel! This is steel!", and then put forward an even cleverer, more convincing argument than his. Errr... basically... if you couldn't be convinced to change your mind by any argument, then you're either conducting a War On Straw, or you're a blind ideologue, or you're actually just describing *what you want* rather than what really is.

Feb 10th 2014 at 3:32:54 AM •••

@Dalek Kan Noladti

That sounds an awful lot like you can't have debate with a clear winner in your story without resorting to straw manning. Would you say that's accurate?

Edited by
Feb 10th 2014 at 4:28:59 AM •••

So, you're saying that people who personally don't want to live forever are always wrong and irrational, even if they don't believe in the afterlife or religion, or is it about people who are simply against transhumanism as a concept? I'm not very familiar with Rat Fic, but if it's the former, then that does seem like it could get into strawman territory pretty easily if they don't take into account simple reasons for not wanting to live forever (like boredom or general misery), and treating them as wrong for it (and that's not even getting into the fact that most of the stuff dealing with transhumanism is nothing more than mere speculation).

@dspeyer: Maybe use Critical Research Failure instead.

Edited by
Feb 10th 2014 at 5:49:12 AM •••

Let's can the philosophy debate. This is a board for discussing the wiki page, not rationalism.

In my mind, "Rational Fic" means a fanfic where character behaviour is informed by rationality - or rationalism. Methinks that this is the clearest description we have.

Feb 10th 2014 at 9:07:58 AM •••

Hmmm... I guess the one thing I'd really change about it right now is to add some kind of Morality Trope as one of the defining parts of the genre. A good rationalfic guarantees the characters have consistent alignments. Those alignments drive the characters' actions and, preferably, drive the conflict of the story. Characters never hold the moral equivalent of the Idiot Ball, doing something against their own alignment just because the author needs it to happen.

Feb 10th 2014 at 11:30:51 AM •••

Agreed. I'd rather not debate rationality. Suffice to say that avoiding the war on straw is a staple of the genre. Hopefully that's not so contentious that we need to debate it.

Edited by
Feb 10th 2014 at 12:36:03 PM •••

@Dalek Kan Noladti: Does Conflict Ball cover what you're thinking of? It's on The Plot Demanded This Index, but we could call it out specifically.

@supergod: Critical Research Failure is for when "anyone with a cursory knowledge of the subject realizes the writers made the whole thing up". Mixing up the Paris and Buchholz Hydras wouldn't qualify. But rational fic authors are careful to get things like that right.

Feb 10th 2014 at 1:53:35 PM •••

Yeah, Conflict Ball sounds about right. Rational characters don't hold the Conflict Ball any more than the Idiot Ball, ie: ideally never.

In The West Wing episode "Isaac and Ishmael", the normally calm, moral and - of course - liberal Leo Mc Garry character has to turn into a ranting strawman of a right-wing ideologue for plot purposes. It should be pointed out that the actors give a small speech at the beginning that openly states that it doesn't fit into the regular continuity.

Yup, Conflict Ball.

Feb 10th 2014 at 3:35:35 PM •••

Added. I've also added a paragraph about not a single avoid trope not disqualifying a work, based on the argument over deathist strawmen.

It seems Did Not Do The Research was deleted by mods who considered it a mix of Complaining About Shows You Dont Like and People Sit On Chairs. Many of the examples got folded into Artistic License, even though they mostly don't belong there. The mods' logic suggests that Actually Did The Research should be a trope, and Shown Their Work has come to be used this way, even though it's supposed to be something a little different. Any attempt to clean this up at this point would involve going through several hundred long pages and sorting their examples by what trope they actually are — a task I do not have the patience for. I'll just use Dan Browned here.

I think all issues have been addressed. Does this look ready to launch?

Feb 11th 2014 at 1:43:55 AM •••

What are you using Dan Browned for?

Also, I'll note that most of the wicks are still pointing to the redirect and that there is no indexing yet, either.

Feb 11th 2014 at 2:55:17 AM •••

Dan Browned is something that most writers try to avoid (if they're making things up, they usually make no claims to the contrary), so I don't think it's worth mentioning.

Also, when crosswicking, and mentioning the trope on works (especially outside of fanfiction) that weren't specifically written as Rational Fic, it would be better if you didn't write it as a primary genre, as in, "X is a Rational Fic written by Y". I think most people would be more interested in whether it's crime, fantasy, sci-fi or one of their subgenres. You can mention that the work is an example of Rat Fic somewhere later, for example: "X is a science fiction novel. It's an example of Rational Fic" or "X is a science fiction novel, and an example of a Rational Fic" or something like that. It's fine for fanfiction that's explicitly written to be part of it though.

I've fixed the wicks.

Edited by
Feb 13th 2014 at 10:02:37 AM •••

Wanted to post thoughts expressed in the Forum thread-some of the phrasing/examples in the article (especially the stuff about van Vogt's Null-A series) makes no sense for people who aren't insiders.

Also, I feel like this reads as a more prescriptive version of Sandersons Law- like it's saying that the only good works of speculative fiction are ones of this type (or at least that a piece is automatically good if it follows this formula).

Basically, it reads like a lot of insider jargon and back-patting by people on Less Wrong.

Feb 14th 2014 at 2:31:03 PM •••

I'd also change (or exclude) this line: "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." "Good" is an indicator of quality, and you can't say that simply following a set standard of writing is going to make something good or bad.

Apr 29th 2014 at 2:28:47 PM •••

Why has dspeyer's version not been posted yet? Even as a LW native, I fully agree with the complaints about the existing version.

That is: the existing version is too self-congratulatory, the example grouping makes little sense, the description for the "Null-A" books makes even less sense, and it starts off with a six-paragraph essay that strikes me as fairly Anvilicious. And that's not even mentioning the jargon.

Unless someone comes up with a reason not to, I'm going to start replacing the existing page with dspeyer's version.

Edited by
Jul 2nd 2014 at 10:12:09 AM •••

So you're going to decide what's "praiseworthy" or not for everyone else? That's just... wow.

Jul 2nd 2014 at 11:34:22 AM •••

Everyone will never agree on such subjective things, which is why the main pages are supposed to be kept as unopinionated as possible. Besides, many people here (and on the crash rescue thread) felt it needed to be changed.

Nov 28th 2016 at 4:49:48 PM •••

I wonder why the characteristics of rational fiction as given here differ from those over at reddit/r/rational? I would suggest to simply use those instead of a list of varying tropes which imposes a very narrow definition at best. I'm new to the concept of rational fiction, but the description on r/rational gave me a good idea of what is intended (I went there cause the current tvtropes description confused me).

Another issue I see is the focus on Yudkowsky, what with all the advice links. It clutters up the page. Furthermore it makes "rational fic" appear to be a personal writing style of his which people emulate rather than a stand alone genre. I understand that you want to honor the guy, but consider placing them under /Write Rational Fic or something. (Not sure what TV Tropes regular stance on this is).

The last paragraph disclaimer should go along with most of the list IMO. Reading the list it does feel like a collection of superawesome tropes (rationalfic is full of Fridge Brilliance! Its that good!) followed by some universal bad writing tropes (which rational fic does not use!). The disclaimer does not save the situation and the list just dont define a genre (again, why not use the characteristics of the r/rational?).

Nov 28th 2016 at 5:59:20 PM •••

Kinda interesting that the Reddit page links here.

Actually the earliest version used pretty much the same text as the Reddit characteristics, with a few modifications. Most of us didn't like it, though, because it seemed too self-congratulatory and had an air of "other writers do it wrong", like with the whole "sane rules" thing. It didn't help that the person who started the article also added nonsense like, "It's surprising how often authors don't (follow these rules), really."

Edited by supergod
Nov 29th 2016 at 6:20:51 AM •••

How about something like this then?

<Leave the pagequote unless/until someone finds a quote wich better transmits the intended meaning of Rational Fiction>

Rational Fiction is an investigative subgenre of Speculative Fiction where the author attempts to deliberately give the reader as much information as possible about what the hell is going on while attempting to avoid the usual plot holes. All in an effort to make whatever mystery solvable by the reader before the great reveal. Compare Fair-Play Whodunnit in the detective genre.

This endevour is, of course, hard since the author must dab out enough information to keep the story solvable, while still keeping the mystery interesting enough.

The genre codifier is Eliezer Yudkowsky, writer of the fanfiction Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality. This proved popular enough to spark a community dedicated to writing and sharing rationalist fiction on Reddit. (Something about A. E van Vogt. I know nothing of this guy so someone else write it)

The four cornerstones of the rational fiction is:

  • Sufficiently explained character reasoning that the plot seems a natural consequence of previous actions. Attempts to hide Theory of Narrative Causality under layers of reasonable explanations.

  • Sufficiently reasonable motivations of all partys to the plot. Seeks to avert Blackand White Morality and various versions of the ball.

  • Sufficient foreshadowing that any solutions to the problems appear a consequence of the characters known knowledge or resources. Seeks to avert Asspull from the author.

  • Sufficiently self-consistent rules of the fictional world. Compare with Magic A Is Magic A.

Where the zeroth law is

  • The world shall survive close scrutinity by both the characters and the readers. The opposite of Bellisario's Maxim.

The main character then, in one way or the other, investigates the world using, you guessed it, rational methods.

Since all the cornerstones and the word sufficiently is a case of YMMV, examples should be chosen on the basis of 'an attempt was made' rather than 'perfect adherence'.


Edited by klaskatt2
Feb 3rd 2014 at 5:21:51 AM •••

I still don't think "sane rules" should be a characteristic because it's pretty vague. Isn't consistency all you can ever ask for when you talk about rules?

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Feb 4th 2014 at 11:44:59 AM •••

I don't understand why the Mohs Scale Of Scifi Hardness has anything to do with how sane a universes rules are, especially since many of the examples here explicitly use magic.

Feb 4th 2014 at 12:04:38 PM •••

Honestly, most of the definition here seems to be very vague. This is being discussed in the YKTTW Crash repair thread for that and several other reasons.

Feb 9th 2014 at 9:32:32 AM •••

Mohs is probably the wrong angle of attack - I'd go with Sanderson's First Law instead. Readers should understand how/why "it" works, where "it" is magic, applied phlebotinum, or the character's actions and trains of thought. In relation to Mohs, that basically excludes the highest tier, Science in Genre Only.

Type the word in the image. This goes away if you get known.
If you can't read this one, hit reload for the page.
The next one might be easier to see.

How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: