Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

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Fanfiction
Title: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality (HPMOR)
Author(s): Eliezer Yudkowsky (aka Less Wrong)
Date(s): 28 February 2010 – March 2015
Length: 660,000 words/122 chapters
Genre: gen, sorting AU
Fandom: Harry Potter
External Links: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality; WebCite (on ff.net)

author page with accompanying art; WebCite

HPMOR.com (mirror site)

Click here for related articles on Fanlore.
cover for this fic, artist not credited

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality (HPMOR) is a popular and widely-known Harry Potter AU by Eliezer Yudkowsky,[1] also known as Less Wrong. Parts of the story have been translated into fifteen languages.[2]

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality has been referenced on numerous occasions outside of "typical" fannish spaces and has been presented as an example of the "extent to which Potter fans have expanded the universe beyond Rowling’s original designs and helped amplify the series' popularity."[3]

It has also been heavily critiqued by many fans.[4][5][6][7][8][9]

The Plot

In the story, Petunia Evans has married a professor for biochemistry and the two of them are raising young Harry in a loving, strongly academic environment. As a result, Harry is inquisitive, precocious and fascinated by science and science fiction. When he finds out that he is a wizard, he tries to apply scientific principles to his study of magic, with sometimes surprising results.

It examines the system of magic of the Harry Potter series through the lens of science and rationality: for example, it proposes specific sets of rules for Transformation (chapter 15), frequently plays around with time travel, and wonders why wizards never went to space.

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality has a complicated plot with many open mysteries. Notable are the roles of Professor Quirrell as Harry's (possibly evil) mentor, and Harry's unorthodox attempts to convert Draco Malfoy to the side of the Science, as well as the strong friendship between Harry and Hermione. Harry also has to fight against his own dark side.

This fic is an example of a re-sorting fic: Harry and Hermione are both sorted into Ravenclaw.

The Author's Preface at Fanfiction.Net

Disclaimer: J.K. Rowling owns Harry Potter, and no one owns the methods of rationality.

This fic is widely considered to have really hit its stride starting at around Chapter 5. If you still don't like it after Chapter 10, give up.

Please visit HPMOR DOT COM for:

Easy email notification system, RSS feed, and Twitter feed for new chapters;
Current Author's Notes and progress updates;
Lovely fan-made book-style PDF version;
Ad-free mirror of the text;
ePUB and MOBI e-texts;
Ongoing podcast of the story;
Fan art in vast quantities;
Cameo list (characters named after fan artists);
Fan-fanfiction of this fanfiction;
Fan music, songs, and animations;
Fan translations;
The OKCupid keyword for HPMOR readers;
Links to TV Tropes page and discussion forum;
Trigger warnings page (warnings about possible traumatic associations for some readers; to avoid spoilers for most readers, there are no warnings inside the main story);
How to learn everything the main character knows;
Open job positions at a related nonprofit; [10]
And ever so much more.

Reviews make me happy. You can leave reviews on any chapter, no login required, and there's no need to finish reading it all before you start reviewing chapters - but do please leave at most one review per chapter.

This is not a strict single-point-of-departure fic - there exists a primary point of departure, at some point in the past, but also other alterations. The best term I've heard for this fic is "parallel universe".

The text contains many clues: obvious clues, not-so-obvious clues, truly obscure hints which I was shocked to see some readers successfully decode, and massive evidence left out in plain sight. This is a rationalist story; its mysteries are solvable, and meant to be solved.

The pacing of the story is that of serial fiction, i.e., that of a TV show running for a predetermined number of seasons, whose episodes are individually plotted but with an overall arc building to a final conclusion.

The story has been corrected to British English up to Ch. 17, and further Britpicking is currently in progress (see the /HPMORsubreddit).

All science mentioned is real science. But please keep in mind that, beyond the realm of science, the views of the characters may not be those of the author. Not everything the protagonist does is a lesson in wisdom, and advice offered Less Wrong];archive link </ref>

Where and When Was It Published

The story was posted at Fanfiction.net in parts starting on February 28, 2010 and completed in March 2014. There are, as of early 2017, has nearly 33,000 reviews at that site.

Beginning in February 2012, it was posted at a mirror site where there are extensive author notes in blog form for each chapter, progress reports, fanartist acknowledgments, info about the fic's "wrap up" parties, and the promotion of various products such as "Singularity Institute,"[11], "The Center for Applied Rationality" [12],and "nutritionally-complete meal-replacement muffins." [13]

It was briefly for sale at Lulu by someone other than Yudkowsky for a short time in May 2012. [14];

Intent

Many fans felt that the messages of the story, combined with Yudkowsky's strong opinions and aggressive cross-marketing mainly for the "Singularity Institute," as well as the "Center for Applied Rationality" [15] and the "Machine Intelligence Research Institute" [16] made this fic "bait" for other things than fans of Harry Potter fan fic. [17]

Another example of the very cozy relationship this fic had with fundraising for the "Singularity Institute" was this statement by Eliezer Yudkowsky commenting on someone who wanted to donate $10,000 to the Institute:
By check? Can you PM or email me with the name? The reason I ask is so that I can figure out how close HPMOR is to the 4-day update threshold, add it into my calculations in advance, and make sure it doesn't get double-counted when the actual check arrives. (BTW, do you want credit with my thousands of fanatic readers for bringing the threshold closer?) [18]

Some fans compared the whole set-up to a cult. See Is This Fic Bait for a Cult?.

A fic with a similar universe, scope, and probable intent is Thanfiction's Dumbledore's Army and the Year of Darkness.

Promotion

Yudkowsky frequently incorporated scientific terms and/or theories in the story that he had previously discussed on his blog, Sequences, which he encouraged readers to read.

The story has a page on TV Tropes [19], Facebook[20], a page on the Harry Potter Wikia (archive link); a page on the Less Wrong Wiki (includes many links to fan discussion); and various message boards.

Yudkowsky asked readers to aggressively rec the story to other people:

This story spreads by blogging, tweeting, word of mouth, favoriting, plugging on forums, and adding to lists; and remember, if the readers before you hadn't taken a moment to do that, you probably wouldn't have found this. If that's not enough to motivate you, then let me add that if you don't help spread rationality, Hermione will be sad. You don't want her to be sad, right? Don't forget to visit LessWrong dot com and read the Sequences, the true existence of which this fic is but a shadow. I recommend starting with the sequence How to Actually Change Your Mind. [21]

Yudkowsky also asked fans to nominate the story for a Hugo Award:

I would like any readers who think that HPMOR deserves it sufficiently, and who are attending or supporting the 2015, 2016, or 2017 Worldcon, to next year, nominate Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality for Best Novel in the 2016 Hugos. Whether you then actually vote for HPMOR as Best Novel is something I won’t request outright, since I don’t know what other novels will be competing in 2016. After all the nominees are announced, look over what’s there and vote for what you think is best. [22]

Hopes for Rowling's Blessing as Charity Work

I decided long ago that once HPMOR was fully written and published, I would try to get in touch with J. K. Rowling to see if HPMOR could be published in book form, maybe as HJPEV and the Methods of Rationality, with all profits accruing to a UK charity. I’m not getting my hopes up, but I do have a rule telling me to try rather than automatically giving up and assuming something can’t be done. If any reader thinks they can put me in touch with J. K. Rowling, or for that matter Daniel Radcliffe, regarding this matter, I do hereby ask them to contact me at [email address redacted] [23]
Needless to say if anyone at Fanfiction.net or JKR & co. does object, the request will be immediately removed with apologies, but I see nothing in FF's guidelines or any published comment by JKR which indicates that it should be prohibited. JKR said no commercialization, which if it doesn't prohibit FF running ads, certainly doesn't prohibit accelerating a publication schedule if a charity meets donation goals. FF's Community Guidelines say nothing on the subject at all. [24]

Wrap Parties

Yudkowsky organized/facilitated/sponsored "wrap parties" when the fic was complete. He wrote:

As many of you probably read on the HPMOR author's note last month, I am the coordinator of the HPMOR Wrap parties. Many of you have reached out to me, I put hundreds of you into contact with each other, and over 20 parties on 4 continents are now going to happen. Now it is time to get as much attendance to the events as possible, make sure that we all get the most out of the events and use the momentum that HPMOR has brought this community. This post will serve as a central location for all information and resources available for the parties, as well as a place for discussion in the comments. [25]

Author's Comments Regarding Genre and Status, and Process and Mistakes

When the fic was finally finished, Yudkowsky wrote of some of his regrets and plans for the future and addressed the low status of fanfic,:

HPMOR initially went fast, with 365,000 words in 9 months while I was working on other things. My writing then slowed down enormously after Ch. 63. Looking back, I think I made the following mistakes:

◾The mistake of reading reviews, and letting the pleasure of reading reviews replace the intrinsic reward of writing good text.

◾The worse mistake of having tried to commit to a schedule for chapters, so that the more addicted readers would stop repeatedly hitting F5 in desperate hope. In retrospect, I think the timed updates were good for those readers, but really really bad for my hedonics.

◾Trying to upgrade the standards to which I held my writing; thinking of HPMOR as something that other people were holding to standards, rather than as a wacky fanfiction I was doing in my downtime.

◾Bogging down in all the foreshadowing that had to be fulfilled and the parentheses that needed closing, often involving plot points that I’d developed earlier at a more primitive level of literary skill.

The obvious lessons are that next time, I must:

◾Hold myself to a lower standard, somehow, even if many people are praising the work as Great Literature and my natural impulse is to try to live up to that.

◾Not commit to any schedule, just publish things as I feel comfortable with them. Torturing my readers with unpredictability, as much as I more open-ended plot, where I can just take things where I want them to go; foreshadowing only hidden background facts that can be discovered at any time, not specific future events.

[...]

The final thing that would be natural for me to try would be writing something that is even lower-status than Harry Potter fanfiction, like say erotic romance, so that my brain will stop trying to Take It Seriously. (I don’t think this actually comes with a penalty to writing quality; it didn’t for the first 50 chapters of HPMOR.) Sub-obstacle #1 to this is that I worry I might have actually learned the true lesson that there is no such thing as a nonserious genre. But the larger problem with this particular tactic is that…

Obstacle #2 to my writing more fiction is that my writing so far has had negative, as well as positive, consequences for public relations. My writing tends to be controversial and stomp all over certain sorts of minefields. Worse, there is some quality of it that seems to attract a certain sort of Sneer mindset – not just social-media sneertrolls, but the seething pools of corruption that are mainstream journalists. (I have theories of exactly what is happening, but it’s not worth going into here.) This has costs for the projects I’m currently associated with in the public eye. I don’t think I can write ‘safely’ without both destroying the integrity of my fiction and also destroying the satisfaction that I receive from it. A sense of joy in writing does not go along with constantly looking over your shoulder. [26]

Podcast

Beginning in 2011, an audio version of HPMOR was serialised as a weekly podcast, narrated by Eneasz Brodski. A total of 110 voice actors took part in the audio version, playing different characters from the story. The audiobook/podcast was completed on 29 August, 2016 and is available in full as an mp3 at hpmorpodcast.com, or on Archive.org.

Works Inspired by HPMOR

In addition to being a fanwork in its own right, Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality had a thriving fandom who produced fanworks of all kinds - from fanfic, to fanart, to fan music and more. The fic also influenced a great number of works in other fandoms that came after it, which strove to follow its example in applying rationalist principles to various works of fiction.

Fanfiction of HPMOR

HMPOR inspired dozens of fanfics, from epilogues and "missing chapters" to crackfics and spin-off AUs.

The HPMOR subreddit has a thread entitled 'List of stories similar to HPMOR' which lists 20 of the most popular derivative fics under 'HPMOR fanfiction'[27], while Yudkowsky's notes for each chapter on the mirror site listed "recursive fanfictions" as they were published.[28]

A Timeline of HPMOR Fanfiction was created which attempts to put the published fics and fic installments into a chronological order.

Examples of recursive fic

Fanart and Cameos

There is a lot of accompanying fanart for Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, to the point where HPMOR had its own deviantART group. This was probably encouraged by the fact that Yudkowsky offered fanartists cameo appearances in the story. [29][30] These needed to be specified by the artist, and could be "transferred" to another person if the artist wanted to give the cameo to someone other than themselves.

Sample Fanart

Other "Rational" Fanfiction

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality inspired something of a trend in rational fanfiction, which resulted in many other works being published in various fandoms that explored alternative possibilities for the canon storylines and characters, all centered around rationality, logic, consistency and the scientific method.

Some of these works outright acknowledge HPMOR as an influence or inspiration; others do not, but all were published during or after the time period that HPMOR was serialised.

Controversy and Criticism

Exploiting Fanfiction to Further His Philosophy And Professional Work

Many fans have focused on how Yudkowsky used Methods of Rationality to promote his "rationalist" philosophies and his professional work with the Singularity Institute. Some of them favorably...

Writing fanfiction in order to get more people to read your blog about obscure logical fallacies!? You'd have to be a genius to actually succeed at that. He is, and he does. [31]

...and others much less so:

This story reminds me of reading Ayn Rand, where a fictional story is merely a vehicle for bludgeoning the reader with a "superior" worldview; characters espousing said worldview win out over those who don't in equal parts wish fulfillment on the part of the author and morality play for the reader. Rather than organic dialogue, the reader receives mini-lectures delivered using different characters as mouthpieces and/or sounding boards. In this chapter, it was the Sorting Hat waxing on thoughts of self-awareness in the Harry Potter analogue of machine consciousness, the author's professional bailiwick.

I suspect much of the inconsistency is that the author is shoehorning a lesson du jour into his chapters rather than allow the story to grow naturally. In some places this works, but in others, it's clumsy and grinds gears. A deft touch is needed to do this in a way that doesn't turn preachy and turn off readers.[32]

Exactly. I read some of his other fiction, and I liked it. But, I was basically forced to skim when a character started to spontaneously hold forth on the dry minutae of scientific rationale. I don't oppose their presence, only the method of their delivery. They shouldn't intrude on the story, but flavor it.

[33]

Some fans felt Yudkowsky was being exploitative of the Harry Potter fandom in general, especially considering he hadn't read past Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, the third book.[34]

Not bothering to read the books from which one is borrowing betrays an arrogance and lack of respect for the source material on the part of the author that many would find objectionable.

Also, perhaps it's me, but I see the story as a thinly veiled commercial for the author's blog/institute, which breaks the "doing this for pleasure and not profit" fanfiction model (as well as being a subtext that breaks the fourth wall for several readers). The author is almost certainly deriving commercial benefit from J. K. Rowling's intellectual property and his exploitation of the popularity of her fandom by routing eyeballs to his site and building his own personal fame as a voice in the field of AI. I wouldn't be surprised if his story has bumped traffic to his blog/website by an order of magnitude or two. In many regards, this practice is worse than a Cassandra Clare or Jim Bernheimer pitching their original fiction novels on their fanfiction sites, since neither author makes a living off their writing.[35]

If the author himself hasn't even read past PoA, as shinysavage pointed out, then what little respect I had for this story is gone. This isn't even a conglomeration of facts and ideas connected by the Harry Potter world; it's just a conglomeration of facts and ideas fitted together with cookie-cutter trivia and the basic knowledge gleaned from the shortest and simplest books in the series.

If Yudkowsky had the integrity I assumed he had, he would have read the last 4 books - something that would have taken days at the most. I know for a fact that I can read all seven books in a week without changing my routine, and I'm only a moderately-fast reader. Is it so difficult to set some time aside and research the thing you are writing about? I would have thought this would have been the first thing he did, instead of waffling about with Wikipedia and fanon drivel, especially with his scientific background and how it's what his goddamn story is about. This is a perfect example of why so many of us are opposed to this 'fanfiction phenomenon', out of principal if not the slew of other reasons.[36]

Is This Fic Bait for a Cult?

Many fans felt that the messages of the story, combined with Yudkowsky's strong opinions and aggressive cross-marketing with the "Singularity Institute," made this fic "bait" for other things than fans of Harry Potter fan fic.

Fans in 2011 wrote:

He's writing something to prove how intelligent he is and how stupid you (the reader) is by comparison.
Actually, I think his eventual aim is to get more people for his apocalyptic+messianic cult and hence more donations for the organization he's PR guy of (singinst.org)[37]

I'm side-eyeing this whole Singularity Institute thing, of which he's evidently the founder.

Reminds me a lot of the whole thanfiction/victoria bitter mess, but since that was my first time witnessing a major fandom con/wank/ripoff happening, I might just be projecting my paranoia. [38]

The "victoria bitter mess" refers to the early-2000's Lord of the Rings debacle involving a fan known at the time as Victoria Bitter (one of many pseuds for Thanfiction) who raised money and duped a lot of people for a phoney charity, as discussed in the book When a Fan Hits the Shit.

Comments at the Author's Blog

There are 247 comments in 2012 at Yudkowsky's blog discussing whether or not this fic was part of cult propaganda and was part of a lure to gain believers. See Cult impressions of Less Wrong/Singularity Institute [39]

Some comments from this discussion are below.

Eliezer addressed this in part with his "Death Spiral" essay, but there are some features to LW/SI that are strongly correlated with cultishness, other than the ones that Eliezer mentioned such as fanaticism and following the leader:
•Having a house where core members live together.
•Asking followers to completely adjust their thinking processes to include new essential concepts, terminologies, and so on to the lowest level of understanding reality.
•Claiming that only if you carry out said mental adjustment can you really understand the most important parts of the organization's philosophy.
•Asking for money for a charity, particularly one which does not quite have the conventional goals of a charity, and claiming that one should really be donating a much larger percentage of one's income than most people donate to charity.
•Presenting an apocalyptic scenario including extreme bad and good possibilities, and claiming to be the best positioned to deal with it.
•[Added] Demand you leave any (other) religion.

Sorry if this seems over-the-top. I support SI. These points have been mentioned, but has anyone suggested how to deal with them? Simply ignoring the problem does not seem to be the solution; nor does loudly denying the charges; nor changing one's approach just for appearances. [40]

Perhaps consider adding the high fraction of revenue that ultimately goes to paying staff wages to the list.

Oh yes, and fact that the leader wants to SAVE THE WORLD. [41]
One fundamental difference between LW and most cults is that LW tells you to question everything, even itself. [42]

In order to reach a (hostile) audience one needs to speak the language. However ambient ways of carrying out discussion are often intermingling status / identity / politics with epistemology. In order to forward a position that biased / faith / economy based thinking are not epistemologically efficient tools one needs to make at least the initial steps in this twisted up "insane troll logic" . The end product is to reject the premise the whole argument stands on but it will never be produced if the thinking doesn't get started. In making it public and praising this kind of transitioning of modes of thinking, a lot of the machinery temporarily required to play the drama out gets reinforced into a kind of bedrock. It complicates matters people are simultaneously in need of completing a particular step while others need to dispel them. Thus there is a tendency to fixate on a "development step" relevant to the majority and becoming hostile to everything else.

I don't see the need to profess stances on things if the relevant anticipations work correctly. Coding the keys of insights on a single namespace and honing them to work against a static context makes applying and discussing them in other contexts needlessly complex. If someone knows a bias / heuristic / concept by some other name and that makes a LW participant not recognize or fail to apply things that they have learnt the password for, LW has managed to isolate insights from their usual and most needed application area.

Things that "hardcore" pursuits find valuable are passed "as is" or "as finalized by AwesomeDude42". This is faith based "cause they say so". Hooked by the "quality of the merchandise" this communal activity is more of a distribution system of those closed packages of tools rather than an epistemic engine in it's own right. I think that even school should be a place of learning rather than a place to receive data about what others have learned.

Because there is a caliber difference not all members can follow or participate in the production of the "good stuff" they wait to be distributed right out of the oven. Doing a passive "level up" handbook in the form of sequences still leaves a big "you must be this tall to participate in this facet of this community". There is no escaping the cognitive work of the individual but LW functions more as a price rather than the workbench.

The activity of LW is limited in a content-independent way by social structure in areas that it wishes to be more. This is not the optimal venue of thinking, but that shouldn't come as a big surprise. [43]

Self Promotion

The single-mindedness and Yudkowsky's strong personality rubbed some fans the wrong way. At the end of chapter 9, one fan reported, "Author issued a dare in the AN: if you guess what the last line of chapter 9 refers to before chapter 10 is posted on April 3rd, the author promised to tell you the entire plot."[44]

That stunt with review counts really worked. The fic got 500 reviews in less than a week. I hope that satisfied him and hopefully he wont pull a stunt like that again.[45]

Later, in another A/N, Yudkowsky reacted to the large number of reviews he'd gotten since starting Methods:

Two months. Over three thousand reviews. What can I possibly say, besides thank you?

Still, _My Immortal_ had over eleven thousand reviews. You wouldn't want people to think that fic was better than this one, right?

Sorry about the pace slowing down. I started this fic partially to prove to myself that I could still write thousands of words per day, so long as I was doing something easier than the rationality book I was bogging down on. Now I've started pair writing (that means there's someone else next to me while I write the book) and my productivity has gone way up, but that in turn means I don't have as much free writing energy. But this is still fun, and the future chapters I have planned are too good not to write, so don't go worrying just yet. And hey, still updating pretty damn fast in an absolute sense. Oh, and not to be even more of a review whore or anything, but that thing where you write reviews begging the author to update? It totally works on me. (Coughs.)

Someone asked if Professor Blake was Anita Blake. Let me put it this way: Do you know any other Blakes who would teach Defense and get caught in a closet with three fifth-year Slytherins?[46]

Other fans had issues with Yudkowsky's request for money in order to produce chapters of the fic quicker. Yudkowsky posted this to the header for Chapter 73 at Fanfiction.net in August 2011[47]:

The Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence, the nonprofit I work at, is currently running a Summer Challenge to tide us over until the Singularity Summit in October (Oct 15-16 in New York, ticket prices go up by $100 after September starts). The Summer Challenge grant will double up to $125,000 in donations, ends at the end of August, and is currently up to only $39,000 which is somewhat worrying. I hadn't meant to do anything like this, but: I will release completed chapters at a pace of one every 6 days, or one every 5 days after the SIAI's Summer Challenge reaches $50,000, or one every 4 days after the Summer Challenge reaches $75,000, or one every 3 days if the Summer Challenge is completed. Remember, the Summer Challenge has until the end of August, after that the pace will be set. (Just some slight encouragement for donors reading this fic to get around to donating sooner rather than later.) A link to the Challenge and the Summit can be found in the profile page, or Google "summer singularity challenge" and "Singularity Summit" respectively.
Fans had this to say:

"I will release completed chapters at a pace of one every 6 days, or one every 5 days after the SIAI's Summer Challenge reaches $50,000..."

NO. This is completely unacceptable. Asking for tens of thousands in donations? For a cause that most of your readers is probably indifferent to?

While I understand MoR's purpose is supposed to be tied to some degree to SIAI's mission, they always remained separate. Not everyone has to believe SIAI's claims in order to benefit from the rationality lessons conveyed in MoR, let alone know these claims. I'm saddened to see this separation ended and the fic used in this way, simply because SIAI hasn't raised enough funds. [48]
Well, now you've done it. Making money via MoR and its popularity isn't just a violation of JKRs copyright, it's an absolute DICK move against your own readers. Maybe you should use the rationality you are rightly popularizing with this story in your own RL actions? With the visibility of MoR you can be assured that you will get a massive kick in the butt for this because the concerned parties (JKR, ff.net) will hear about it. You might think you've avoided the problem by promising to publish the chapters anyway -even without any influx of money- but the fact is that you try to get payed for services (posting chapters on a higher rate IS a service) rendered to your readers. It's a pitty that behind your mask of benovelent 21st century proponent of Enlightenment you seem to have planned this moment for a long time. Or how do you explain the fact that all of a sudden you have a bunch of chapters ready to post if "only" your readers give you enough dough? Shame on you Mr. Yudkowsky. [49], August 26, 2011 </ref>

Rofl. People still read this story?

While it's fashionable to bash Yudkowsky because the guy's online persona oozes smug douchnozzelry, credit him for words that were carefully chosen. So far, I don't think he's doing anything worse than what he's done in the past (essentially using MoR as an advertisement for his employer, using it to bring eyeballs to their website, etc.) or, for that matter, than what a number of us who participated in Jim's last anthology did when we mentioned or linked to the commercial work in our fanfiction.net pages/author's notes.

That could change, however, if he moves from "encouragement" to hostage-taking or uses somewhat different language to describe his fundraising and its connection to his for-free writing hobby. One thing he is sure to do is turn off his readers. Fanfiction readers are a fickle lot; they have shown repeatedly that they have little tolerance for folks peddling this kind of dross and that it's incredibly easy to stop following a story once you start to dislike the writer. (You wouldn't know it by just looking at review counts, but I'd be willing to bet that his story is getting fewer hits/chapter than it did early on and this could be Yudkowsky's last real chance to cash in on the story's popularity). [50]

In response to the above author's note and the long author's note discussed in the Dark Lord Potter section below, one commenter on fandomsecrets said:

I really, really don't think it's so bad. It's offering vague incentive to donate to a non-profit organization by releasing chapters of a fanfic a couple of days sooner than otherwise, even explicitly phrased as being intended to encourage readers who are going to donate anyway to do so sooner rather than later to give things a jump start. I'd kind of agree if he'd actually held the chapters hostage until reaching certain donation goals - then there's a coercive element to it, a "Well, now I've roped you into getting invested in this, I can now use it to serve my own ends by threatening to take it away from you" thing. But it was a matter of speeding up the release of a few already written chapters by a couple of days. If you don't want to donate to the Singularity Institute, the thought that maybe the next chapter will be released five days from now rather than three isn't going to emotionally blackmail you into doing it anyway. It sure didn't do that to me, at least.

It really is like shaving your head on YouTube: it doesn't matter in any way at all, it's just something donors might enjoy having a part in bringing about. The sense in which it could be construed as paying for the fanfic is so indirect that I can't possibly believe it makes any real legal difference.[51]

An anon replied, summing up their problem with it succinctly:

the icky part is where he founded the institute, so he's essentially asking for money for himself - _and_ trying to hide that.[52]
Another example of the very cozy relationship this fic had with fundraising for the "Singularity Institute" was this statement by Eliezer_Yudkowsky/Less Wrong, commenting on someone who wanted to donate $10,000:
By check? Can you PM or email me with the name? The reason I ask is so that I can figure out how close HPMOR is to the 4-day update threshold, add it into my calculations in advance, and make sure it doesn't get double-counted when the actual check arrives. (BTW, do you want credit with my thousands of fanatic readers for bringing the threshold closer?) [53]

Dark Lord Potter

The controversial forum Dark Lord Potter was especially aggressive in its members' dislike of the story, and Yudkowsky, and was part of an ongoing feud.

The Dark Lord Potter forum has dedicated threads for fics to recommend and criticize them. Methods of Rationality's thread started on March 9th, 2010. It inspired a great deal of discussion, debate, and criticism and one forum-goer noted that even early on it had a high number of votes,[54] though not all of them favorable.

Yudkowsky mentioned the Dark Lord Potter thread in his author's note for chapter 8[55] which was then received badly by many people on the MoR thread. One comment on the thread on March 31st read:

This story has moments of win, but the author seems to be doing his level best to come off as a pretentious, review-whoring douche who doesn't really know what he wants the story to be (aside from a canon-bashing reprisal of everything on his favorite web site). Aspects, such as Harry's second interaction with Draco, are clumsy at best. Others, like the songfic episode, are Perfect Lionheart-esque attempts to be different for the sake of being different (and thus proving something to some reviewer nobody cares about).

For all the author's blather about rationality and Bayesian inference, he is hypocritical in not appreciating that readers, after absorbing a dozen or so promising "Super-smart Harry goes to Hogwarts and... something; I'll think of something I'm sure" starts, will make the natural and entirely rational inference after seeing every one of them fail that this story is probably headed for the same. Instead of smug protestations, a more convincing counterargument would be if he were to actually just write the damned story.

I went from liking this story as a guilty pleasure to not caring in the space of 1k or so words. 3/5 now, rounding up (down from 4/5 before this chapter and A/N).[56]

By April 2nd, 2010, the A/N referencing Dark Lord Potter had been removed[57] confirming that Yudkowsky was probably lurking the thread. Several people on the thread gave their best recollection of what the A/N had actually said:

I believe the context of what he said was something like...

"At chapter 5 this story went viral, at chapter 6 I had my first offer for marriage, at chapter 7 DLP wasn't quite as harsh. This is what I will say in the future to describe their standards."

Or something along those lines...[58]

It's odd. I can't find it now, but I could have sworn I read a rant at the beginning of the `Positive Bias' chapter that went something like: ``When asked later about this fic, I'll say that chapter X was when it went viral. The next chapter is when the fic started getting positive reviews at DLP (you should see these guys, they'd give the Philosophers Stone a harsh review). Maybe I saw it elsewhere, but I'm almost certain...

So, I'm pretty sure Less Wrong is reading this.[59]

Yudkowsky might also have referred to the negative comments on Dark Lord Potter and sent by them in their reviews as flames according to one post, which read in part, "And on top of that, Yudkowsky seems to be throwing a bit of a hissy fit. He's cited legitimate concerns and called them flames, and does seem to come off as arrogant and egotistical."[60]

The Dark Lord Potter thread expressed much frustration with the fic and their thread dedicated to Methods of Rationality had many, many people signing up for the forums just to reply in support of the fic. This was likely because the thread was the third-highest result in a google search for "Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality" in mid-2010.[61] An A/N on a chapter posted in mid-July not only noted that Methods had been "endorsed" by two best-selling authors, but also that "(Of course the Dark Lord Potter forum still has this fic in the Recycling Bin.)"[62] proving that Yudkowsky was definitely keeping his eye on the thread and surely pointing many of his readers in the direction of Dark Lord Potter. When the A/N was quoted on the forum, one DLP member replied:

Oh, and "in before the next batch of one-post idiots arrives to defend this story to the benighted DLP horde." To such: The community has standards; while this story has positive elements and interesting ideas, it doesn't measure up. The author's apparent hangup over this is illuminating.[63]

On July 12th, 2010, Dark Lord Potter member Silens Cursor posted a copy of a PM he'd sent Yudkowsky and the reply he'd gotten back to the DLP Methods of Rationality thread. Silens Cursor's post detailed several key things in Yudkowsky's fic that Silens Cursor thought could be improved, notably his characterization,[64] an opinion Silens Cursor had shared on the DLP thread before[65]. Silens Cursor invited Yudkowsky to the section of the Dark Lord Potter forums where the members offer constructive criticism to authors.[64]

Yudkowsky's reply was dismissive of this suggestion. He directly referenced a blog called Methods of Rationality Sucks, written by one of the Dark Lord Potter forum members.[66], which had very briefly operated in June. Yudkowsky called the Dark Lord Potter forums a cesspit and then thanked Silens Cursor for writing.[64]

Many people in the thread expressed that they were very unsurprised with this reaction. Silens Cursor expressed that they had hoped for better, and that the two biggest factors in how upsetting Yudkowsky's response was were:

1. Critique DLP has typically gotten before has usually been true (and most members can't deny that). We're harsh, we're brutal, we're utterly unforgiving, and we pounce with enough viciousness to get our points across. But calling us unintelligent or our stories unworthy of attention strikes me, as an author, as unbelievably arrogant. So I got angry, and to some degree justifiably so.

2. This author has received, as of last count, over 5,000 reviews in about four months. He has claimed support from public figures, and he has mentioned us CONSISTENTLY in his author's notes, often with a disparaging manner. Anyone who reads his notes or comments is automatically going to believe something about this site that isn't true, and that's not fair to the admins, mods, and other members who have invested a lot of time, money, and effort making this place as it is. I feel that's a just reason to get angry, in my opinion, because we deserve better.

In all due honesty, I'm trying not to take his smug, condescending attitude personally, but there's a certain degree of justifiable anger that I feel when people refuse an offer for help because 'you're not smart enough for me'. I'd love to see him taken down a few notches, right now - 'cause of all the people I know, he's certainly one for it.

I was hoping [it would go better], yeah, but let's be honest - collective apathy here is understandable. I was honestly hoping more people would get stirred up about it, but maybe that's just me.

We'll see what happens.[67]

Replies from others on the thread:

@Silens

Really? On IRC you were bragging about hopefully having baited the author to come to DLP for advice and you were looking forward to all the members bashing him and his stories and now you act offended and claim you were just hoping to offer civil, objective advice?[68]

I suppose in the long run, we could end up losing membership as some poor newbie comes across this and decides that DLP is 'a cesspit'. But frankly, I'm really not sure we want people so easily persuaded by the cult anyway - more than anything else, DLP is made up of people with their own strong opinions. We've always had a reputation as the fanfiction boogieman, and one more guy with a thousand idiot followers - while infuriating - isn't exactly new.

I'm comfortable with who we are, both as a collection of people who enjoy shooting the shit about Harry Potter, and the cross-section of people we are in real life. While it makes my skin crawl on one level to be so thoroughly dismissed by a pompous douchebag whom I've never met (yeah, color me hypocritical...), as has been said, the central point is this:

This guy's irrelevant.[69]

Of course, from his perspective, the only accurate analyses are those filled with glowing praise.

I still maintain that Chapter 7 of this fic was great. However, after that, it went downhill. He has an inflated sense of self-worth and uses this fic to lecture his readers. It would be infinitely better if he toned down on this lecturing and imparted his "lessons" as part of an actual story. To be completely honest, I could stand all of the other faults that Silens mentioned if I weren't being spoken down to. In fact, I could probably stand being spoken down to if he had watertight logic. But he doesn't; his rationalizations and fixes to canon don't make as much sense as he seems to think they do.

Whatever. I don't really care about him that much; sure, I was annoyed that even reddit of all places had a circlejerk over him, but in the long run, he's not worth our energy.[70]

When you compare the guy with the apply-philosophy-science-to-Harry-Potter gimmick to authors at DLP that the entire fandom knows, I pity Less Wrong because his writing isn't in that league.

So let him enjoy his Z-list celebrity endorsements and his very own gilded page on TvTropes. He is not of sufficiently high stature to be dismissing anyone. The fic's popularity might even benefit the fandom and encourage writers who are good at the craft. We don't need to pop his bubble.

You could try extracting a real response to your critiques Silens, but I'm sure he'll be curiously silent, or keep dancing.

I'll be waiting for Sarah Palin to endorse this fic.[71]

At this point, Yudkowsky himself showed up on the Methods of Rationality thread, about six hours after Silens Cursor first shared the PM exchange.

Right, so just to make it clear, that was a private reply to a private message which the world never got to see until Silens Cursor posted it here. The whole world now knows that I think DLP is a cesspit... thanks to one Silens Cursor.

See, ordinarily people are supposed to condemn that sort of thing when it happens. Even if you don't like the target's fanfiction. It goes against netiquette. And the fact that you guys ain't condemning it really, really, REALLY does not reflect well on the Dark Lord Potter forum.

It is exactly the sort of behavior that justifies the phrase "Internet cesspit" that I used in private. And just as you don't care about violations of netiquette so long as you get the punch in, I don't get the impression that you care whether your critiques are true or false. Or respect the work enough to pay any close attention, which is why other forums have done far more accurate analyses of the hidden information in Methods. And if I were looking for organized criticism, I would most certainly bring my work to Viridian or SpaceBattles or some other forum that had shown the ability to do successful analyses, not here.

I'll give you fair warning now that I might later publicly say something along the lines of "If you're an author whose work has been trashed by the DLP, don't worry about them, they're just another Internet cesspit. For proof, look at this thread where someone posts a courteous private response from me without permission, and no one else condemns this violation of universal netiquette."

You are, of course, free to try to make things look prettier for DLP by saying the sort of things you should've said originally.[72]

One user replied that "nobody really cared about what Silens had to say until you showed up here and whined about... this invasion of privacy, and how we're all terrible people."[73] Another user was struck by how Yudkowsky had characterized his PM'd reply to Silens Cursor:

Courteous? COURTEOUS?

Silens' message to you was courteous and constructive with the intent to help you better your story. Your responsive was dismissive and demeaning towards someone who has proven to be a better author than you.[74]

In an author's note in late August of 2011, more than a year later, Yudkowsky wrote about his interactions with the Dark Lord Potter and warned his readers off engaging with them:

Please ignore all the reviews suggesting that my offer to do the moral equivalent of shaving my head on Youtube if a charity meets its donation goals will bring about the downfall of all Harry Potter fandom everywhere. This is not a real backlash. It is being coordinated by a troll forum called Dark Lord Potter, whose shtick is pretending to be snooty exclusive Harry Potter fanfiction critics (yes, really), and which hates hates hates MoR for being higher-status than them. Helping a charity would predictably set them off. And while I do thank everyone who jumped to this fic's defense, having these sorts of arguments in the reviews is not the way I want to increase my review count. Thanks to Dark Lord Potter for helping to keep this fic #1, though.

(Dark Lord Potter specializes in concern trolling, messages which start out looking serious and helpful to lure you into the start of the argument. Be extremely wary if you get a private message suggesting that your fic has promise but could benefit from the critique at Dark Lord Potter. I got one of those early on and then later discovered that the sender, Silens Cursor, had been bragging in the DLP chatrooms about how he was going to bring me to the DLP forums so they could all bash on MoR and crush my soul. Yes, really.) [75]

Publishing On Lulu

On May 29th, 2012, Dark Lord Potter member Fatality posted a thread on Dark Lord Potter alerting the forum to the sale of physical, printed copies of Methods of Rationality on the site Lulu, a personal publishing service. "So yeah, I know DLP's history with this fic and particularly its author... but lets try to keep this a bit civil," Fatality wrote at the end of his post.[76]

On June 1st in an update on his blog, Yudkowsky addressed the Lulu printing and its subsequent removal, blaming "the troll forum Dark Lord Potter" based on the timing of the thread and the takedown:

And before anyone asks, the printed version of HPMOR that someone made briefly available on Lulu was taken down – probably due to complaints from the troll forum Dark Lord Potter [77]; from what I can see of the chronology, the book was taken down a few moments after someone posted a Dark Lord Potter thread accusing me (it wasn’t me) of selling the book for a profit (the poster made it available at Lulu’s base cost). This particular forum hates hates hates Methods and anything to do with it, so you can probably assume they’ll complain to any service you use to make HPMOR generally available in printed form [78]

Uninvolved fans commenting on this feud later in 2011 said:

I don't know the story behind this, but it sounds suspiciously like most wanks I've ever heard come out of the Harry Potter fandom. Person writes bad fanfic. People like bad fanfic. Person gains loyalty. Person starts asking for money. All that's left is for them to fake their own suicide and the circle will be complete. [79]
Needless to say, the author does not respond well to criticism at all, and has hated the dark lord potter forums ever since they reviewed his fic harshly and suggested ways to improve it. If you visit said forums, you'll notice that it's only a handful of members who have something against the author, and the rest are more or less indifferent, if not tired of hearing about the topic.[80]

Bringing Unwanted Attention to Fanfic

Less Wrong's requests for money, via "The Singularity Institute," caused many fans to cringe, citing the fear of bringing legal wrath down upon fandom and fanworks.

In August 2011, after Less Wrong embarked on a series of fundraising, many fans were incensed:

It's worth getting outraged about if for no other reason that it potentially ruins fanfiction for the rest of us. Fanfiction is permitted to exist by copyright holders on the caveat that it isn't done for profit. The moment fanfiction authors start profiting from their work is the moment previously generous copyright holders start thinking about forcing FF.Net to shut down their section of the website.

With that in mind, the fanfiction community has a responsibility to police itself so as to make sure the community as a whole does not suffer from the hubris of one author.

Which is why I encourage you to report him. WB needs to see right from the start that this isn't about fanfiction as a whole - it's just about one author. [81]

I'm cringing in ways of which I had not known I was capable.

I do that whenever fanfic gets dragged in front of people who have whole stables full of flesh-eating lawyers. [82]
Yeah, report on ff.net, not to Warner. Those people are hard cunts, and would delight in crushing online fanfic one afternoon. And I'm not joking. [83]
This story isn't parody in the traditional sense, so it's possible that a court would consider it as not falling within this protected class of derivative works. Indeed, if the legal hammer were to fall on this story, it could have fallout: consider that a single CAD letter, if sufficiently broad in scope, to the owners of fanfiction.net could effectively shut down the fandom.[35]

(In the 1990's and early 2000's, fanfiction.net banned fanfiction about works by several authors, effectively killing the fandoms for those authors' works.)

Magic vs. Rationalization

And if he wasn't trying to promote rationality in a fantasy fanfic. "Megic isn't logical!" Wow, I never noticed that before. [84]
THIS x 10000000. It's one thing to complain about a lack of internal consistency w/r/t worldbuilding and/or magic systems, but if you completely refuse to suspend any disbelief whatsoever (magic defies the laws of physics, who'd've thunk?) I have to wonder what you're doing reading fantasy at all.[85]
I also generally dislike how he just says "hey look, this is stupid, haha", rather then trying to find a reasonable way a system could be set up. The best example I have of this is when he rants about Quidditch being dumb - he immediately jumps to the conclusion "people are irrationally attracted to this game that sounds stupid based on two sentences about the scoring" rather than "that scoring system sounds really odd, there's probably other factor I'm not hearing about." I find it much preferable to come up with clever explanations for weirdness than to just point and laugh.[86]

The problem with the story, I suppose, is that it only has one trick; and it keeps using that trick, and expecting you to be as impressed as you were the first time. The application of rationalist principles to HP magic produces some funny conclusions/questions, yes. But that's all, and you can't go any further than that.

Magic in the HP-verse obeys certain principles, or rather follows certain trends; its effects can be specific and documented. But its origins and essential nature cannot be understood. Unlike electricity, which is a simple idea which becomes complicated once you start talking about generators and capacitors, and then becomes simple again when you reduce it to the level of electrons, magic just is.

The magic in Harry Potter is possibility, imagination, change, power, all wrapped up in one mysterious force. It is ludicrous to apply scientific principles to such a force; by definition, magic eludes the probing gaze of science. The interplay between magic and science in the HP-verse - or rather, their disconnect - is not enough to sustain a long-form story. This would have made a very funny/interesting one-shot, but it makes a poor chaptered story, and I would expect further chapters to decline in quality.


tl;dr - magic, ur doing it wrong

2/5[87]
His rules on Transfiguration irritate me enough to stop reading the fic. Firstly, they don't make sense (the arguments he applies to liquid and gas should also apply to solids), secondly it completely cripples the branch of magic so as to be completely useless. Thirdly, from what he's done to Transfiguration I can see the entire path of the rest of the fic, and it lies in Harry's success. He's twisted the magic system to make it so that it coheres with science.[88]

Agreed, which is the main reason I stopped reading this story as well. But I suspect I ditched it for a different reason than [the fan quoted above]. While he dislikes how they twisted the magical system, I'm disliking it because it undermines a thematic element that I wish more stories like this had: the wonder and mystery of magic. By breaking transfiguration down in this way, he's forcing the magical atmosphere of Hogwarts to conform to a scientific theme, and the two do NOT get along.

If anything, the author should have kept with what he did in the early chapters - the 'nerd!Harry' ranting at how magic disproves all his science, and the underlying insecurity of that - would have been great plot material with a hint of cultural commentary. As it is, it damages the story.[89]

He's made it logical, rather than magical. He's made it concerned with stuff like physical properties rather than things like ideas. His explanation for why you couldn't feed yourself with transfiguration is a scientific-sounding explanation about the physical properties of objects. A magical sounding explanation would be something like this: you cannot create sustenance with magic.

Allow me to illustrate:

Under his kind of view of magic/transfiguration, a change between a quill and a leaf would be considered easier than a quill and a pen, because a quill and a leaf are much more similar in mass, density, aerodynamics, etc. Under a more "magical" view, the change between a quill and a pen would be easier, because quills and pens are both writing implements, so are alike.

(I'm not saying that in canon "quill -> pen" is easier than "quill -> leaf" but rather am just using this as an illustration of what I mean by non-scientific.)

This is the kind of distinction I'm trying to make between a pseudo-scientific image of magic and a, well, magical image of magic. Basically, the author has made it so that, while the contents of Transfiguation run contrary to scientific knowledge (e.g. conservation of energy, though I'm sure he'll rescue this by the end), nevertheless his version of Transfiguration is clearly possible to investigate using the scientific method. There is absolutely no challenge for Harry at all here. Bringing science to magic was meant to be difficult.

The idea that this is canon-compatible is absurd. We've seen liquids and gases changed, we've seen living things changed, we've seen humans changed, and we've seen permanent transfigurations. That there are poor wizarding families is easily explained by the fact that very few people have the talent to master Transfiguration. With the limits he has placed on Transfiguration, no one would use it, ever. It has no purpose anymore, except perhaps to kill people.

His approach is the exact opposite to mine. Clearly, in canon, there are gaps between the power of HP magic and HP society: given the capabilities of magic, their society should be different. But instead of taking the challenge of trying to imagine how such a society with powerful cost-free magic would work, he takes the easy route out and weakens the magic so that he can maintain a society not unlike that of the Muggles.[90]

The two most annoying things, however (which have probably already been mentioned in this review), are the projection of the author as the protagonist and the pretentious application of logic onto fantasy. And that's a problem; for it seems that the entire fic is geared towards that style.

Perhaps my first lesson on DLP was that logic and magic do not mix (I believe it was in a thread about magic being a form of energy), and with just reason; it is fantasy. You shouldn't try to apply logic to that which, be definition, is illogical.

Perhaps this is supposed to be a crack-fic, and if so I found no humour in it. I know that most of us here find many faults in the Harry Potter series, hence why we strive to find high standard stories for the Library, but the extent to which the author is butchering the HP!Verse is rendering it as something which does not belong in the realm of HP-Fanfiction. It is taking away far too much from fancy, and instead replacing it with reality.[91]

Comments Regarding the Author's Tone and Attitude

[cure_light]: I personally got tired of it because of the author's attitude, but the fic itself, like someone up-thread mentioned, touches on interesting points that are perhaps better suited to speculative original fiction than to fanfiction, but that are still interesting to read anyway. [92]
[fingalsanteater]: Anyway, I don't know why I feel the need to defend the author's writing ability. I guess because I wish the author didn't spend so much time acting like he/she is a fucking godsend to the uneducated and unwashed masses and would just write the fic. [93]
[cure_light]: Even some of the best fics can be ruined by an author with a poor attitude. [94]
[xenOglossy]: Ugh, I really dislike that guy and all his fans and the whole "rationalist movement" or whatever. I mean, I haven't spent tons of time examining their arguments and I can't cite specific examples of Here Is Why I Think They're Arrogant Jerkwads, but from what I've seen of the fic and his blog and his TVTropes-based fandom, I've come away with a really unpleasant impression of the whole thing. I'm all for examining your biases and looking critically at your opinions, but I also think that it's impossible for humans to ever act or think 100% rationally. There will always be bias; there will always be emotional reactions. And Yudkowsky & co. have this way of acting as though they're beyond all that and they can never be wrong because they're rational and their opinions are not at all based on their feelings, unlike the opinions of anyone who disagrees with them. [95]
[antialiasis]: A good chunk of the sequences on Less Wrong is devoted to stressing that there definitely will always be bias, actually - but that doesn't mean people should just give up on attempting to realize and overcome them and think more rationally. That's a pretty fundamental aspect of the whole thing, in fact, hence why the blog is titled Less Wrong and not Always Right. [96]

Straw Men

Every single character who actually gets his own scenes is obnoxious and annoying, and the author incredibly preachy. There are actually pretty large mistakes in his preaching, and the argumentation used by almost everyone, strawman or not.

And yet, I still thought it was pretty good. [97]
...IMO, it's not really Harry Potter fanfic, but the author's beliefs acted out through characters named Harry Potter and Tom Riddle. The result is a well-written and interesting story that may have just been better off being original fic...[98]

I just caught up with the rest of this story today, and I've now realized I have a lot more issues with it than before.

Firstly, all my previous complaints are still completely valid, but now I've got new ones. I dislike the way this writer has written Dumbledore and Snape, and this author's habit of preaching vehemently from Harry and Quirrell's mouths has gotten worse and worse.

My biggest problem with this story is tone - it's schizophrenic to the extreme, particularly between chapters. The atmosphere is so badly compromised by the sudden shifts that this story loses suspension of disbelief, and it's hurting the plot too. I can't tell where the underlying theme is coming through or coming from, and that really hurts my reading experience.

Follow it up with worsening dialogue and some of the most stilted and (plot-wise) unnecessary scenes I've seen in a long time, and I cannot rate this story well. Like Terry Goodkind, the writer has forsaken his plot and characters for his message and bad crack-humour.

This story heartily deserves its 2/5.[99]
Ok, Horcrux in space = pretty fucking awesome.

... seriously? Yeah, it probably makes sense in a logical way.

And it goes to show, once again, why some things simply should not gone about logically: because leading them to their logical conclusion makes it retarded, kills the world and story, and takes all enjoyment out of it.

So the Horcrux is in space. Perhaps Genius!Harry will then construct a rocket and fly up there to catch it. WTF has that to do with a Harry Potter story anymore?


It's like, yeah, you can look at any aspect of Harry Potter logically. Why would Voldemort not use the goddamn Pioneer-plaque as a Horcrux? Stupid Rowling for not thinking of it. Except it's completely and utterly missing the point of a fantasy story, and while the author is busy giggling over being so very clever to think of things that for him make no sense in Canon and that he can "fix", he's entirely missing that in doing so, he destroys the fictional world.

Canon and Rowling >> this exercise in stupidity. And I hope he hates both, so that this is an insult.[100]

Draco's Comment About Raping Luna Lovegood

There was much discussion regarding the scene that contained eleven-year old Draco Malfoy's statement that he wanted to rape another character, referring to a conversation between Draco and Harry in chapter seven:

Draco groaned. "Not a guy. A girl. A ten-year-old girl, can you believe it? She went nuts after her mother died and her father, who owns this newspaper, is convinced that she's a seer, so when he doesn't know he asks Luna Lovegood and believes anything she says.
[...]
Draco snarled. "She has some sort of perverse obsession about the Malfoys, too, and her father is politically opposed to us so he prints every word. As soon as I'm old enough I'm going to rape her."

Some fan comments:

Alright, my first complaint is that it should warn readers that it contains sensitive issues. I almost choked on the chocolate I've been eating when I read Draco's nonchalant threat of rape. I mean, hello? Isn't he still eleven? And okay, maybe there are lots of open-minded eleven-year-olds in the world but saying that to an almost complete stranger is too much! [101]
Wow. That's powerful. I would never expect a child to brazenly say they could rape someone and mean it. It cut through all through everything. [102]
It just occurred to me that rape would be far less serious in the wizarding world because they can magic away the consequences with an Obliviate. [103]

"It was like that in every place and time that didn't descend directly from the Enlightenment. A line of descent, it seemed, which didn't quite include magical Britain, for all that there had been cross-cultural contamination of things like pop-top soda cans."

So institutionalized rape exists in every non-Enlightenment culture, and its existence in a culture strongly implies that that culture is not descended from the Enlightenment?

This belief is ignorant and appalling. Your main character is a bigot. [104]
My twenty year-old son recommended this to me. I was enjoying it hugely, laughing my ass off during Chapter 7, until the part about raping Luna Lovegood, who is surely the Mockingbird of Rowling's story. While there was a point to be made, it was painfully cavalier too long for this reader. I was going to post a link on Facebook and now I will read longer before pledging my support for this story. Rape is far too common among young readers to make light of. [105]
The only part that I honestly didn't like was Draco, at eleven, saying that he would rape Luna in response to the Quibbler article. I understand that rape is sometimes more about power and control than sexual release, but...he's eleven. It threw me for a bit of a loop. Besides that, I REALLY love how this is developing! [106]
OK, "as soon as I'm old enough, I'm going to rape her!", is just so deliciously WRONG (!) . (sick bastard! they are eleven!) [107]
I'm tempted to quit this story after hearing Malfoy saying he's going to rape Luna. Potter didn't even defend her and why in the HELL are 11 YEAR OLDS talking about RAPE?! [108]
Why are two eleven year olds joking about raping a ten year old to prove scientific inaccuracies in a work of fiction? [109]

Unrealistic Characterizations

My reaction reading this paraphrases Morbo: HUMAN BEINGS DO NOT WORK THAT WAY. Everything in this fic is increasingly contrived and completely unlike actual human behavior and/or interaction. I couldn't quite put my finger on it, but someone mentioned crackfic and I guess that's the closest comparison. The latest chapter has gone way, way beyond that. It has to be read to be believed.[110]
The real problem is that "Harry" is just a thinly veiled metaphor for the author. Problems and all. Too bad, it's a typical trap.[111]
Afaik the author said, that Harry represents his 18 year old self; very intelligent and knowledgable, but still with some serious errors in thinking. So I wouldn't necessarily conclude, that every speech in the story is author tract.[112]

Other fans found Harry to be a whiny Mary Sue:

I wanted to like this fanfic. As a mathematician and an atheist I should have liked this fanfic.

I didn't. The writing is poor (even for fanfic) and the characterisation worse. The author has turned Harry Potter into the most unsympathetic and unlikeable child I can possibly imagine - which I would guess from his bio is also a blatant Mary-Sue.

Should have been called Harry Potter, the Snotty Little Git. [113]
Harry Potter is a little shit. And you know it. I thought long and hard about whether or not this was truly a bad thing, and I think I'm still convinced that it is. Asshole should have a reason for being assholes. They either contrast the good in others, serve to advance the plot, or provide a more interesting POV (i.e. we WANT to hear stories from their POV). This Harry is none of those. He's unnecessarily entitled, and his manipulation skills are both highly romanticized and very Gary-Stu-esque. I don't want to be anywhere near this kid, let alone hear his mind-cogs turn.[114]

Fan Comments

2010

I tried to read it, but I feel it's exceptionally arrogant at the beginning, and didn't want to read further. The fic itself just feels like it's rolling it's metaphorical eyes at me for reading such tripe as a Harry Potter fanfic. [115]

2011

This is the funniest thing I have ever read. I have never read something this funny before. It was extremely difficult to do anything except read it until I had "finished" it, and now it's hard to do anything but think about it and wish there was a lot more of it for me to read.

I guess I'll just read some of his rationalist essay series instead! [116]

Imagine if Ender Wiggen were put in Harry Potter's place, and the cunning of other characters upgraded in a similar way. Yudkowsky is a gifted writer, and he plays off the tropes of fanfiction and the idiosyncrasies of the world of Hogwarts in a way that transcends the genre. The books is at times laugh out loud funny, touching, inspiring, and always very smart. Writing fanfiction in order to get more people to read your blog about obscure logical fallacies!? You'd have to be a genius to actually succeed at that. He is, and he does.

It's an unfinished serial novel, and it suffers a little from being not quite a final draft. There's a single evil comment by Draco that I would edit out in chapter 7, and the bit with the Patronus descends into preachy/political interjection. But it's hard to find fault when that's the stated purpose of the work in the first place. Really, you should give this a try [117]

2012

I like Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality (full disclosure: I host that site but do not write or in any other way contribute to the project). It has no sex whatsoever, although Harry and Hermione do go on a date at one point, because it's not that kind of fanfic. [118]

The book is funny, at times hilarious. The premise is well executed as Eliezer draws from his vast experience as a rationalist and lets us take a look at genius minds at work; we all know how hard that is to pull off. Methods of Rationality really hits its stride around chapter 5 and according to the author if you haven’t taken to it by chapter 10, then that’s a good time to call it quits (and rethink your interests).

From the get-go, different decisions create chains of cause and effect that send the book in pretty different directions (like Harry finding out almost immediately that he’s prophesied to battle against the dark lord). Other scenes repeat almost word for word, like the first potions lesson with Snape (only this time, Harry refuses to play the victim and stands up to him, in a rather spectacular fashion).

As the story progressed, I found myself engrossed in the plot, invested in the characters and generally unable to put the book down. It is not flawless and at times Eliezer’s inexperience as a novel writer shows, but overall this is as good as it gets. Come for the premise, stay for the story and along the way let the message of rationality rub off and enlighten you. I’ve rarely been as inspired to study, as in love with science or as driven to succeed as when I’ve read this book. [119]

2013

Great idea; terrible execution. In fact, I think the summary is completely misleading. While some scenes had me laughing out loud, I spent most of my time cringing or raising one eyebrow or the other; HPMOR is saturated with Yudkowsky's blatant disdain and a condescending tone.

Characters are, for the most part, wildly out of character. Harry completely fails to act like an 11 year old boy, and reads like a thinly-veiled, sociopathic self-insert. Draco is also worrying sociopathic, even beyond the rape threat that others have mentioned, when the books took careful pains to make him rather more human and sympathetic. Dumbledore and Quirrel have also been replaced by Doppelgangers Yudkowsky apparently felt would better fit his story.

I rather liked the idea, but the actual story is uncomfortably contemptuous of those who don't adhere to 'rationality'. [120]
Every new fannish person I meet on tumblr, once they find out I'm also into HP, recs it to me. And I'm sorry. It's fucking awful and it always has been. I have never wanted to punch a character in the face more than I did that smarmy little robot Harry.[121]
That fic could actually be somewhat good if it took itself and its premise less seriously, or if the author wasn't a bit of a creep with no self awareness basically.[122]
I believe he said the reason why he chose Harry Potter so he can have a wider audience to listen to his theories. Because apparently starting a blog isn't good enough, you must write a rationalist propaganda piece in a fantasy setting. [123]
It's an okay fic, and I do feel like I learned a bit from it, but the fact that the lead is thinking of other characters as NPCs is creeptastic. NPCs are automata with no consciousness. The lead is thus not a very sympathetic character, because in his hubris he dehumanizes everyone but himself and Hermione (and Quirrelmort). Besides which, he confuses organic processing speed with rationality. That's not necessarily a flaw in the writing. [124]
I read it longer than I planned to because I kept expecting it to turn into Harry/Draco slash. The author had this obvious boner for Draco and kept coming up with stupid reasons for Harry to keep pursuing friendship with him even though it made no sense for Harry's personality either in canon or in that fic, nor was it rational. I figured someone so obsessed on forcing Harry to be friends with Draco against all sense was obviously doing it because they shipped them. But then I realized the author was just a weird neckbeard who had some kind of strange Draco fixation but was probably not going to make them go gay. Also it was just a really bad fic.[125]
Like the part (that was later edited to make it slightly less racist) where Draco's talking about raping a girl and Harry is shocked and figures that wizarding England must be like those uncivilized Dark Countries? Didn't you know, civilized white people never rape anyone, because they have Science and Rationality.[126]

2015

Eliezer Yudkowsky is a loathsome creepy egotistical hack. I don't buy his (insultingly folksy) rape disclaimer from Three Worlds Collide, HPMOR has its own disturbing rape conversation in an early chapter, and the cult of personality around him seems extremely dangerous.

I love the idea of this fic, I just wish it was written by someone else. [127]

2016

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality is poor fanfiction that is not particularly faithful to the characters, not actually faithful to actual rational science despite Rational-Harry claiming it's what he believes, and also against some of the most obvious themes of the novels. Anyone who's read the actual novels can tell you that Dementors are a metaphor for depression, and that Voldemort's big issue is that he believes that nothing is worse than death, and so he tortures his own soul and ruins lives to escape it. And his literal name, Voldemort, is 'flight of/from death'. Yud himself, unfortunately, is absolutely terrified of death himself. This means that he thinks Dementors are a metaphor for death, and thinks Voldemort is totally right but is just doing things the wrong way.

The words are in roughly the right order and are spelled correctly, that's the most you can say for it. It's just nerd-wank. [128]

2017

HOLY **** THIS IS AMAZING! I think you just punted my brain past the asteroid belt.

[snipped]

THIS IS AMAZING! Being an intelligent child myself, I have often found myself thinking some of the exact same things that Harry has thought/said during this (though at an older age than him)! The story is rather funny as well. [129]
Quoting yourself, Mr. Yudkowsky? Really? That's... well, it's very human. But it could also be the actions of less-than-Friendly AI that has somehow developed hubris, perhaps through the mimicking of humanity's more unsavory characteristics. But I digress. It seems a little desperate to quote yourself and specifically leave out your name, not unlike when Harry was bargaining with Lucius and *didn't* mention Dumbledore until pressed. You did it before, in your words for Mr. Prachett, but I forgive you that. Who knows, maybe your name will be remembered by the historians who ponder the mysteries of half-forgotten Ancient Earth. I hope mine will be. Sincerely, Hecate, a fourteen year old who's probably going to regret this. [130]

Unknown Date

I think one of the things I strongly dislike about HPMOR is that there doesn’t seem to be any joy purely in the discovery. People have fun playing the battle games, or fighting bullies with time turners, or generally being powerful, but no one seems to have fun just trying to figure things out.

For some reason (the reason is that I have a fair amount of scotch in me actually), my brain keeps trying to put together an imprecise metaphor to old SNES rpgs- a friend of mine in grade school loved FF2, but he always went out of his way to find all the powerups and do all the side quests,etc. This meant he was always powerful enough to smash boss fights in one or two punches. And I always hated that- what is the fun in that? What is the challenge? When things got too easy, I started running from all the random encounters and stopped buying equipment so that the boss battles were more fun.

And HPMOR feels like playing the game the first way- instead of working hard at the fun part (discovery), you get to just use Aristotle’s method (Harry Potter and Methods of Aristotelian Science) and slap an answer down. And that answer makes you more powerful- you can time turner all your problems away like shooing a misquito with a flamethrower, when a dementor shows up you get to destroy it just by thinking hard- no discovery required. The story repeatedly skips the fun part- the struggle, the learning, the discovery.[131]

Meta/Further Reading

  • Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality review by su3su2u1, archived from su3su2u1; WebCite; archive.is ("I opened up a bottle of delicious older-than-me scotch when Terry Pratchett died, and I’ve been enjoying it for much of this afternoon, so this will probably be a mess and cleaned up later. Out of 5 stars, I’d give HPMOR a 1.5. Now, to the review (this is almost certainly going to be long)") (not dated)
  • Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality; archive link ("[I] tried reading Methods of Rationality because I was led to believe it was funny. Someone quoted from passages that amounted to criticism of Rowling’s worldbuilding encased in a narrative. Having been known to rant about this myself, I gave it a try. There were indeed some sections that pick some deserving nits, as I expected. What I did not expect was that I would enjoy the actual story tremendously, indeed, far more than I enjoyed the Harry Potter books.") (March 2011)
  • Harry Potter Week: The Methods of Rationality: An Alternative Harry Potter; archive link, at Wired Magazine ("Please don’t run away, because at some point here, I’m going to have to say an f-word that I don’t like. I never thought I’d use it. But I’ve done it. I’ve now read 72 chapters of fanfic: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality. Sorry fanfic lovers–I’m just not into that particular area of fandom. This spectacularly wonderful ongoing story by Eliezer Yudkowsky, however, is worth your time." (July 2011)
  • Hate for Yudkowsky?; archive link, by submitted 3 years ago by Subrosian_Smithy at Reddit "(A lot of people really, really seem to hate Yudkowsky and HPMOR by extension. Why? Am I missing Yudkowskys secret lair of villainy and puppy eating? Am I subconsciously skimming over all the parts of HPMOR where the narration becomes sexist and pretentious?") (2014ish)
  • A Critical Review of Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality; archive link by Ben Friesen (alexanderwales) ("Methods of Rationality wants to teach you things. It wants to give you lessons on social psychology, cognitive biases, and science. For the most part, it delivers these lessons in a straightforward way - many of the chapters feature a direct explanation of a concept by Harry, and then in a later scene hit upon that theme less directly. These lessons begin to drop off following the Azkaban arc in favor of other elements - primarily drama.") (March 2015)
  • As of early 2017, there were 754 reviews of this fic at Goodreads

See Also

References

  1. Eliezer Yudkowsky on Wikipedia.
  2. HPMOR More Info. Accessed on July 30, 2018.
  3. 18.7.2011, 'Harry Potter' and the Key to Immortality; archive link by Daniel Snyder, article in The Atlantic; accessed 18.10.2011
  4. Chronological review of HPMOR by su3su2u1. Archived on January 1, 2016. Accessed on July 30, 2018.
  5. Hermione Granger Versus the Methods of Rationality by Sam Keeper at Storming the Ivory Tower. Published on August 12, 2013. Accessed on July 30, 2018.
  6. Tumblr post by tobermoriansass. Posted on April 21, 2014. Accessed on July 30, 2018.
  7. Tumblr post by littlelostmaybelots. Posted on February 27, 2015. Accessed on July 30, 2018.
  8. Tumblr post by notyourexrotic. Posted on June 18, 2017. Accessed on July 30, 2018.
  9. Tumblr post by essayofthoughts. Posted on June 11, 2015. Accessed on July 30, 2018.
  10. This is a reference to the product placement/close relationship this fic has with the "Singularity Institute."
  11. Progress Update: June 1st; archive link
  12. Author’s Notes, Ch. 102; archive link, July 25, 2014
  13. "MealSquares has now opened the beta (with free shipping) of their nutritionally-complete meal-replacement muffins. Think of it as Soylent in solid form. Be warned that MealSquares are currently very dense (presumably for shipping reasons), but as with Soylent, some people report very good experiences already." -- Progress Report, Oct 2014; archive link
  14. Methods of Rationality being sold for $11?; archive link May 29, 2012
  15. "The Center for Applied Rationality is currently conducting their annual fundraising drive ending Jan 31st. As of now, people have donated $49,342 of the $120,000 CFAR needs to continue normal operations this year. Please consider donating to them! Without CFAR, there would be no organized attempts to actually develop, test, and teach the sorts of cognitive skills that I sometimes depict fictional characters as having." -- Author’s Note, Ch. 103, January 28, 2015
  16. "The end is now in sight! Thanks to an extremely generous anonymous sponsor, and to the Machine Intelligence Research Institute which decided it was a wise use of my time, I will be spending Aug 26-Sep 25th in a remote house in North Carolina writing the first draft of the end of HPMOR. After this comes a standard seasoning / revising process so don’t get your hopes up for an instant update; but revising is more routine for me, and writing the first draft is the hard part. I can’t make solid promises upon the future, but I believe with >50% probability that we are on track for HPMOR to finish before the end of 2014." -- Author’s Notes, Ch. 102, July 25, 2014
  17. "Writing fanfiction in order to get more people to read your blog about obscure logical fallacies!? You'd have to be a genius to actually succeed at that. He is, and he does." -- Douglas Summers-Stay at Goodreads: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, February 2012
  18. Help Fund Lukeprog at SIAI , August 26, 2011
  19. Fan Fic: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality on TV Tropes, accessed 18.10.2011
  20. Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality; archive link, group on Facebook, accessed 18.10.2011
  21. Author's Note for chapter 64; archive link, accessed 18.10.2011
  22. Author’s Note 119: Shameless Blegging; archive link, March 10, 2005
  23. Author’s Note 119: Shameless Blegging; archive link, March 10, 2015
  24. author's chapter notes on August 26, 2011, quoted on Fandom Secrets; archive link, October 12, 2011
  25. HPMOR Wrap Parties: Resources, Information and Discussion; archive link, March 4, 2015
  26. Author’s Note 119: Shameless Blegging; archive link, March 10, 2015
  27. List of stories similar to HPMOR on reddit. Published July 31, 2015 (Accessed July 22, 2018).
  28. Author’s Notes, Ch. 102 (archive link), July 25, 2014: an example of the many, many chapter notes on the mirror site which list other fans' inspired works.
  29. "(Note: We are now running low on cameo opportunities and cameos for further works cannot be guaranteed.)" -- Fan Art, unknown date
  30. "And at the end of the post, when he mentions how there’s been so much art that he can’t make cameos for everyone, I suddenly got a vision of just how awesome it would be to get a call from one of my friends, “OHMYGOSH SO-AND-SO, RATIONALITY JUST UPDATED AND YOU ARE IN IT!” Instead, I shall have to be content with the joy of giving her and myself matching copies of Volume One someday, which I estimate will be at least 35 percent awesomer." -- illustratingrationality.tumblr; archive link, 2014ish
  31. Douglas Summers-Stay at Goodreads: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, February 2012
  32. Perspicacity, on the Dark Lord Potter Methods of Rationality thread, posted 03 April 2010. (Accessed 26 July 2018.)
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  46. Quoted by wolf550e, on the Dark Lord Potter Methods of Rationality thread, posted 03 May 2010. (Accessed 26 July 2018.)
  47. quoted at Fandom Secrets; archive link, along with the statement from a fan: 'It was in the author's notes for chapter 73, posted at the top of that chapter and in his profile. The author routinely erases his own author's notes every time he updates a new chapter, that's why you can't find them -- although that particular note stayed up for a few more chapters than normal." October 12, 2011
  48. comments at Fanfiction.net, post by celopmuh, August 25, 2011
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  65. "...I've lost any hope that this fic is going to get better. I mean, he took a character with a quasi-three-dimensional backstory (Snape) and turned him into a character who would spill his deepest secret to teach Harry 'a lesson'. No, that is not how Snape would behave, the man's much more intelligent than that, and the fact that LessWrong suddenly decided that Snape's backstory needed to be brought forth within this period with no buildup or even hesitation to support his big message ruins the character completely and does a fine job ruining the story along with it." -- Silens Cursor, on the Dark Lord Potter Methods of Rationality thread, posted 01 July 2010. (Accessed 26 July 2018.)
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  131. Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality review by su3su2u1 , archived from su3su2u1; WebCite; archive.is ("I opened up a bottle of delicious older-than-me scotch when Terry Pratchett died, and I’ve been enjoying it for much of this afternoon, so this will probably be a mess and cleaned up later. Out of 5 stars, I’d give HPMOR a 1.5. Now, to the review (this is almost certainly going to be long)") (not dated)
  132. The Postmodern Potter Compendium on Tumblr. Accessed on July 30, 2018.
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  134. The Postmodern Potter Compendium About. Accessed on July 30, 2018.
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