Rational Fic

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Trope · Genre
Synonyms: rationalfic, rat fic, ratfic
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Rational Fic (or "rat" fic) is a genre of stories with characters who put rationalist beliefs and problem-solving techniques into practice. A rational fanfiction typically involves aggressively fixing aspects of canon that are (in the fic author's eyes) deemed to suffer from Idiot Plots or otherwise built inconsistently. Protagonists and antagonists are usually made smarter and/or more calculative than the original, thus Out of Character, even to the point of being unrecognizable.

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, a fanfiction started in 2010, is considered to be the first of the kind.

See the Examples section for other works.

Definition

The Reddit community for the rational fiction genre claims the following points as defining elements of a rational fiction.

  • Focus on intelligent characters solving problems through creative applications of their knowledge and resources.
  • Examination of goals and motives: the story makes reasons behind characters' decisions clear.
  • Intellectual pay-off: the story's climax features a satisfying intelligent solution to its problems.
  • Aspiring rationalism: the story heavily focuses on characters' thinking, or their attempts to improve their reasoning abilities. This is a feature of rationalist fiction, a subcategory of rational fiction.
  • Thoughtful worldbuilding: the fictional world follows known, consistent rules, as a consequence of rational background characters exploring it or building realistic social structures.
r/rational wiki page on Reddit

"Does [a mainstream or otherwise well-known work] qualify as rational/rationalist" is a frequently discussed topic in the community.[1][2][3]

Many proponents consider rational fics are/should be didactic—trying to help the reader learn rationalist ways of thinking.[4]

History

This article or section needs expansion.

In 2009, Eliezer Yudkowsky posted a blog post titled "Rationalist Fiction" on LessWrong in which he argued A. E. van Vogt's stories as successful examples of rationalist fictions.[5] He subsequently published Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality in 2010. In response, other authors applied the concept to other fandoms. Luminosity, a Twilight story by Alicorn, and The Metropolitan Man, a Superman story by Alexander Wales are some of the examples.

In 2015, Ray Alez announced http://rationalfiction.io, an Archive of rational fiction stories.[6] A number of fanfictions were published or archived on the website, but it went defunct in 2020 or earlier.[7]

Reception

Many early proponents of the genre came from LessWrong, a blog community with a similar focus,[8] and closely associated with Eliezer Yudkowsky, the author of Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality.

Some people dislike rational fiction because it overemphasizes logic and reasoning and undervalues the importance of emotional elements in storytelling.[9] Proponents of rational fiction acknowledge that it is a common failure in the genre and should be avoided.[10][11]

Another common criticism is that the community of people who read and write rational fiction suffers from "pseudo-intellectualism"[12] and comes across as condescending because of their tendency to label characters/people with beliefs incompatible with their own as stupid,[13][14][15] or "irrational."[16] While some in the community acknowledge the problem,[17] others deny the accusation.[18]

Some consider the definition, which seems to boil down to plausibility and internal consistency, is too broad to be meaningful because good story-telling always requires characters and worldbuilding to be realistic and consistent.[19] A similar observation is that calling some fanworks "rational" raises expectations too high, when they are just mediocre (or worse) in their storytelling, which is unsurprising for fanfictions written by amateurs.[20]

Some see Competence Porn and Power Fantasy tendencies in rational fiction.[21][22] In fact, as TV Tropes says, this "might be the reason why rational fics are popular" to some readers.[23]

Examples

Among mainstream works mentioned as 'rational':

Resources

References

  1. ^ Is Death Note a rationalist fic?
  2. ^ Strong Female Protagonist is rationalfic right?
  3. ^ Artemis Fowl is irrational
  4. ^ https://www.reddit.com/r/NarutoFanfiction/comments/9r3jyn/what_is_a_rational_fic/
  5. ^ https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/q79vYjHAE9KHcAjSs/rationalist-fiction
  6. ^ https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9977322
  7. ^ https://www.reddit.com/r/rational/comments/inl7xv/rationalfictionio_down/
  8. ^ https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Blog/LessWrong
  9. ^ Jemnite on https://forums.sufficientvelocity.com/threads/why-rational-fiction-is-inherently-problematic.34730/
  10. ^ Zeikos on https://www.reddit.com/r/rational/comments/9966xa/comment/e4lbuqs/
  11. ^ EliezerYudkowsky on https://www.reddit.com/r/rational/comments/9966xa/comment/e4m8b2y/
  12. ^ Porchie12 on https://old.reddit.com/r/CharacterRant/comments/o8mqkq/i_hate_the_whole_subgenre_of_rational_fanfiction/
  13. ^ firefossil on https://forums.sufficientvelocity.com/threads/why-rational-fiction-is-inherently-problematic.34730/page-5?post=7524908#post-7524908
  14. ^ [deleted] on https://www.reddit.com/r/rational/comments/kaat79/comment/gfaxi03/
  15. ^ Batpresident on https://www.reddit.com/r/rational/comments/afi8r7/do_you_think_this_community_is_a_bit_snobby/
  16. ^ DrearySalieri on https://old.reddit.com/r/rational/comments/kaat79/why_the_hate/gf9jgjy/
  17. ^ EliezerYudkowsky on https://www.reddit.com/r/rational/comments/dvkv41/meta_reducing_negativity_on_rrational/
  18. ^ cyberdsaiyan on https://www.reddit.com/r/rational/comments/afi8r7/comment/edywk6m/
  19. ^ NotChartic on https://www.reddit.com/r/WormFanfic/comments/ownsur/comment/h7h4mvr/
  20. ^ Akagikiba on https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/posts.php?discussion=13340862100A79094500&page=3#comment-52
  21. ^ ConsecutiveNormalPun on https://www.reddit.com/r/suggestmeabook/comments/rbp2fq/comment/hnqhfag/?utm_source=reddit&utm_medium=web2x&context=3
  22. ^ Lord0fHats on https://www.reddit.com/r/WormFanfic/comments/ownsur/comment/h7jma8v/
  23. ^ https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/RationalFic