Methods of Rationality: completely made of win

Nerdcore squad, get thee to your Potterverse fan-fiction reading place!

Something, somewhere, somewhen, must have happened differently…

PETUNIA EVANS married Michael Verres, a Professor of Biochemistry at Oxford.

HARRY JAMES POTTER-EVANS-VERRES grew up in a house filled to the brim with books. He once bit a math teacher who didn’t know what a logarithm was. He’s read Godel, Escher, Bach and Judgment Under Uncertainty: Heuristics and Biases and volume one of The Feynman Lectures on Physics. And despite what everyone who’s met him seems to fear, he doesn’t want to become the next Dark Lord. He was raised better than that. He wants to discover the laws of magic and become a god.

HERMIONE GRANGER is doing better than him in every class except broomstick riding.

DRACO MALFOY is exactly what you would expect an eleven-year-old boy to be like if Darth Vader were his doting father.

PROFESSOR QUIRRELL is living his lifelong dream of teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts, or as he prefers to call his class, Battle Magic. His students are all wondering what’s going to go wrong with the Defense Professor this time.

DUMBLEDORE is either insane, or playing some vastly deeper game which involved setting fire to a chicken.

DEPUTY HEADMISTRESS MINERVA MCGONAGALL needs to go off somewhere private and scream for a while.

Presenting:

HARRY POTTER AND THE METHODS OF RATIONALITY

You ain’t guessin’ where this one’s going.

The scale of the conceit (<= litcrit jargon, not a judgemental aspersion on the author) is brilliant, and the various easter eggs lying around for the dedicated SF nerd are delightful, yet unobtrusive for those not quite so well versed in Hugo and Nebula award-winning canon. Highly recommended.

This picture below is not especially spoilery in and of itself. If you drill down through the Methods of Rationality group on Deviant Art though, you will find spoilers, so you might want to wait before you do that.

http://backend.deviantart.com/embed/view.swf
Methods of Rationality Fanart by !unknowncartoonslover on deviantART



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10 replies

  1. I’ve read about 50 of the 70+ chapters and immensely enjoyed most of it. Got too sciencey for me though, and I got bogged down in 11 year old Harry speaking and acting in a completely unnatural way for an 11 year old. Still! Everyone should read at least some of it! I’m not a SF person so I imagine it would be even more enjoyable if you were.

    • I got bogged down in 11 year old Harry speaking and acting in a completely unnatural way for an 11 year old

      I think that’s a deliberate nod to the characteristics of one Andrew Wiggins, who is referenced in several of the nods to sf-canon. The author has deliberately made Harry not only a gifted child who identifies with Andrew Wiggins (as oh so many do), but one with the requisite gifts to plausibly attempt to do what Andrew Wiggins does in Ender’s Game. For those of us who know that story, the fact that it’s not the natural way for an 11 year old to behave is very much The Whole Point.
      Perhaps it’s not quite as generally accessible to those who aren’t SFers as I thought.

  2. Haven’t read it myself but I’ve heard plenty of people discussing it. A few have found the tone rather condescending and mansplainy? Was wondering your thoughts.

  3. I like it, except for all of the Less Wrong fans who explain how it’s a triumph of secular humanism, infecting your brain with Eliezer Yudkowsky’s superior post-human reasoning skills, bringing us all closer to a new tomorrow today! Then I can’t read any more because my eyes are rolled too far back. (Explanation for people: the author of the fanfic, Eliezer Yudkowsky, also has a site called Less Wrong, which is about how to reason correctly, common reasoning errors, etc etc. I have read very little of it and have no opinion on the site itself, but its fans that I have met are irritating.) A Christian friend liked it but said that it wasn’t exactly an advertisement for secular humanism and I think I agree.
    As for the story itself: it’s good fun. However, it seems to have some kind of plot bifurcation problem: he’s resolved very few plot threads and keeps spawning more. The fic must be close to exceeding the length of any of Rowling’s novels now. I am sceptical that he will ever finish it.
    The Amazing Kim, I tend to read some of the characters as condescending and mansplainy rather than the fic itself, but I think the other reading isn’t hard to get either. I can’t find it now, but I think the author wrote somewhere that it has pretty much hit its tone by Chapter 5 so if you read that far and don’t like it it’s time to give up. I think that’s about right, with the note that the “brilliant science prodigy kid boggles at the irrationality of the wizarding world, plus dollop of info about rational thinking” bit gets toned down a lot as the fic goes on because the plots don’t allow time for it once they get going. I think that’s a good thing. The fic is eventually more of a political one if anything: a bunch of characters all deeply scheming and schemes partially intersecting.

  4. I’ve had a quick look at Less Wrong, and the site/writing itself seems quite interesting, well laid out and worth some more of my time to explore.
    At the same time, I can see that many of its fans might be annoying if they’re using his writings as a recipe instead of as a framework, which the layout kinda lends itself to – it’s meant to be a framework, but it would be very easy for someone to just see it as a recipe instead. Which totally goes against the whole point of the Rationalist worldview!
    Alt-Potter in this fan-fic is definitely condescending and ‘splainy at times, but his preconceptions keep on being shaken nonetheless, and as the story develops he moves from using rationalism as a recipe to applying it more rigorously as a framework, and as he does so he has more success in his strange new world.
    Also, as Mary says: in the end, once Harry learns more about the ways of the wizarding world, it’s the politics that ultimately drive the plot.

  5. *gasp* it’s still in progress? I downloaded a version of it that stopped rather abruptly in the middle, and was quite annoyed. I’m glad to hear there’s more of it!
    Mary: “However, it seems to have some kind of plot bifurcation problem: he’s resolved very few plot threads and keeps spawning more. ”
    It bothers me, and seems to get more and more out of control as you read on. I still can’t stop loving it though!

  6. Oh, the version I read had 69 chapters, so I guess there’s not much there I hadn’t read. Still, the pdf that I downloaded seemed to imply that it was a finished work (in terms of work being put in, not in terms of plots being resolved XD)

  7. I read a version with 72 chapters. It does get mansplainy and I got bored of that; also got bored of the endless carrying out of a plot. Interesting that Harry’s weird precociousness is actually a literary nod to something else. I’m not sure if that would make it easier for me to read!

  8. I’m enjoying the current wind up of the Self-Actualisation arc although:
    [spoiler for Chapter 77 and creepy speculation is in rot13, you can reverse it by pasting into http://rot13.com/ ]
    Gur cbvag bs puncgre 77 vf nzovthbhf gb zr orgjrra Fancr univat arire xvffrq nalbar orsber, naq Fancr gryyvat nyy gur tveyf gung orsber ur xvffrf gurz naq jvcrf gurve zrzbevrf. Irel zhpu ubcr vg’f gur sbezre.
    [/spoiler and creepy speculation]
    Relatedly, I am amused by the RationalWiki characterisation of the LessWrong community. “On the whole, LessWrong is worth checking out, but it has some rather annoying features that we will now proceed to give undue weight to.”

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