Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

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Fanfiction
Title: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality
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 is a popular and widely-known Harry Potter AU by Eliezer Yudkowsky.

Parts of the story have been translated into nine languages.

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality has been referenced outside of "typical" fannish space 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."[1]

This Fic as a Tool?

Many fans felt that the messages of the story, combined with the author's strong opinions and aggressive cross-marketing mainly for the "Singularity Institute," as well as the "Center for Applied Rationality" [2] and the "Machine Intelligence Research Institute" [3] made this fic "bait" for other things than fans of Harry Potter fan fic. [4]

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 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?) [5]

Some fans compared the whole set-up as 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.

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,"[6], "The Center for Applied Rationality" [7],and "nutritionally-complete meal-replacement muffins." [8]

It was briefly for sale at Lulu by someone other than the author for a short time in May 2012. [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 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 tries 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 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>

Fanart and Cameos

There is a lot of accompanying fanart for "Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality," probably encouraged by the fact that the author offered fanartists cameo appearances in the story. [11] [12]

Examples of Fan Art (and other inspired fanworks):

Podcast

In 2011, a weekly podcast was created [13], The Methods of Rationality Podcast; archive link, and an audiobook was in planning.[14]

Promotion

The author 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 is has a page on TVTropes [15], Facebook[16], a page on the Less Wrong Wikia; archive link (includes many links to fan discussion), and various message boards.

The author 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. [17]
The author also asked fans to rec 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. [18]

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] [19]
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. [20]

Wrap Parties

The author organized/facilitated/sponsored "wrap parties" when the fic was complete.

The fic's author 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. [21]

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

When the fic was finally finished, the author 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. [22]

One Mortal Enemy: "Dark Lord Potter"

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

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.) [23]
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 [24]; 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 [25]
A fan commented on this feud in 2011:
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. [26]

Controversy and Criticism

Capitalizing on Fandom to Promote a Philosophy

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. [27]

Is This Fic Bait for a Cult?

Many fans felt that the messages of the story, combined with the author'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.

A fan in 2011 wrote:
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. [28]

Comments at the Author's Blog

There are 247 comments in 2012 at the author'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 [29]

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. [30]

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. [31]
One fundamental difference between LW and most cults is that LW tells you to question everything, even itself. [32]

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. [33]

Self Promotion

The single-mindedness and the author's strong personality rubbed some fans the wrong way. Other fans had issues with the author's request for money in order to produce chapters of the fic quicker.

The author, Less Wrong, posted this to the header for Chapter 73 at Fanfiction.net in August 2011 [34]:

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. [35]
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. [36], 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). [37], August 26, 2011 </ref>
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?) [38]

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. [39]

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. [40]
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. [41]

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. [42]
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.[43]

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. [44]
[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. [45]
[cure_light]: Even some of the best fics can be ruined by an author with a poor attitude. [46]
[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. [47]
[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. [48]

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. [49]

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! [50]
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. [51]
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. [52]

"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. [53]
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. [54]
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! [55]
OK, "as soon as I'm old enough, I'm going to rape her!", is just so deliciously WRONG (!) . (sick bastard! they are eleven!) [56]
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?! [57]
Why are two eleven year olds joking about raping a ten year old to prove scientific inaccuracies in a work of fiction? [58]

Unrealistic Characterizations

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. [59]
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.[60]

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. [61]

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! [62]

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 [63]

2012

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. [64]

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'. [65]
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.[66]
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.[67]
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. [68]
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. [69]
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.[70]
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.[71]

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. [72]

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. [73]

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. [74]
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. [75]

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.[76]

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

References

  1. 18.7.2011, 'Harry Potter' and the Key to Immortality; archive link by Daniel Snyder, article in The Atlantic; accessed 18.10.2011
  2. "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
  3. "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
  4. "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
  5. Help Fund Lukeprog at SIAI , August 26, 2011
  6. Progress Update: June 1st; archive link
  7. Author’s Notes, Ch. 102; archive link, July 25, 2014
  8. "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
  9. Methods of Rationality being sold for $11?; archive link May 29, 2012
  10. This is a reference to the product placement/close relationship this fic has with the "Singularity Institute."
  11. "(Note: We are now running low on cameo opportunities and cameos for further works cannot be guaranteed.)" -- Fan Art, unknown date
  12. "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
  13. Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality - The Podcast, accessed 18.10.2011
  14. Etherpad for Methods of Rationality audiobook project, accessed 18.10.2011
  15. Fan Fic: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality on TVTropes, accessed 18.10.2011
  16. Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality; archive link, group on Facebook, accessed 18.10.2011
  17. Author's Note for chapter 64; archive link, accessed 18.10.2011
  18. Author’s Note 119: Shameless Blegging; archive link, March 10, 2005
  19. Author’s Note 119: Shameless Blegging; archive link, March 10, 2015
  20. author's chapter notes on August 26, 2011, quoted on Fandom Secrets; archive link, October 12, 2011
  21. HPMOR Wrap Parties: Resources, Information and Discussion; archive link, March 4, 2015
  22. Author’s Note 119: Shameless Blegging; archive link, March 10, 2015
  23. author's chapter notes on August 26, 2011, quoted on Fandom Secrets; archive link, October 12, 2011
  24. Methods of Rationality being sold for $11? May 29, 2012
  25. Progress Update: June 1st, 2012; archive link
  26. author's chapter notes on August 26, 2011, quoted on Fandom Secrets; archive link, October 12, 2011
  27. Douglas Summers-Stay at Goodreads: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, February 2012
  28. Fandom Secrets; archive link, October 12, 2011
  29. archive link for "Cult impressions of Less Wrong/Singularity Institute."
  30. JoshuaFox, [http://lesswrong.com/lw/atm/cult_impress​ions_of_less_wrongsingularity/ Cult impressions of Less Wrong/Singularity Institute]; archive link, March 15, 2012
  31. timtyler, Cult impressions of Less Wrong/Singularity Institute; archive link, March 15, 2012
  32. MGTandP, Cult impressions of Less Wrong/Singularity Institute; archive link, March 15, 2012
  33. ShortName, Cult impressions of Less Wrong/Singularity Institute; archive link, March 15, 2012
  34. 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
  35. comments at Fanfiction.net, post by celopmuh, August 25, 2011
  36. Yudkowsky drops his mask; archive link, comment by NoxedSalvation
  37. Yudkowsky drops his mask; archive link, comment by Perspicacity
  38. Help Fund Lukeprog at SIAI, August 26, 2011
  39. Yudkowsky drops his mask; archive link, comment by Taure, August 26, 2011
  40. Yudkowsky drops his mask; archive link, comment by Warlocke, August 26, 2011
  41. Yudkowsky drops his mask; archive link, comment by Warlocke, August 26, 2011
  42. comment at Fail_Fandomanon; archive link, November 16, 2013
  43. comment at Fail_Fandomanon; archive link, November 16, 2013
  44. Fandom Secrets; archive link, October 12, 2011
  45. Fandom Secrets; archive link, October 12, 2011
  46. Fandom Secrets; archive link, October 12, 2011
  47. Fandom Secrets; archive link, October 12, 2011
  48. Fandom Secrets; archive link, October 12, 2011
  49. Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality; archive link, comment by Eldan, January 2007
  50. Alliana Vivares at Goodreads: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, March 2012
  51. comment by Ladydanni at Fanfiction.Net, July 22, 2014
  52. comment by UNSecur at Fanfiction.Net, October 28, 2013
  53. comment by Anonymous at Fanfiction.Net, October 28, 2012
  54. comment by Beren at Fanfiction.Net, March 16, 2012
  55. comment by Alissie at Fanfiction.Net, June 30, 2013
  56. comment by G. Fawkes at Fanfiction.Net, December 31, 2013
  57. comment by Gothic Rain at Fanfiction.Net, November 13, 2015
  58. comment by J at Fanfiction.Net, December 28, 2011
  59. Surya at Goodreads: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, February 2012
  60. Amanda at Goodreads: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, March 2014
  61. comment by RationalGoblin at Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality; archive link, September 6, 2010
  62. Nick at Goodreads: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, February 2012
  63. Douglas Summers-Stay at Goodreads: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, February 2012
  64. Eddie at Goodreads: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, February 2012
  65. Toby Toldya at Goodreads: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, February 2012
  66. comment at Fail_Fandomanon; archive link, November 16, 2013
  67. comment at Fail_Fandomanon; archive link, November 16, 2013
  68. comment at Fail_Fandomanon; archive link, November 16, 2013
  69. comment at Fail_Fandomanon; archive link, November 16, 2013
  70. comment at Fail_Fandomanon; archive link, November 16, 2013
  71. comment at Fail_Fandomanon; archive link, November 16, 2013
  72. Harry Potter and the Very Long FanFic; archive link, comment at Meta Filter by booksforweapons, Marcy 2015
  73. What is Less Wrong and why do people say it is a cult?; archive link, by Confuzld, at [{Reddit]] 2016
  74. comment by Meerhawk at Fanfiction.net, December 10, 2017
  75. comment by Hecate at Fanfiction.net, December 10, 2017
  76. 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)