Harry Potter and the Very Long FanFic
March 12, 2015 8:51 PM   Subscribe

It has taken nearly five years, but Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality [alternative link, previously] has reached its pre-penultimate chapter. The final chapter, 122, is due to post on March 14th, 2015 (Pi Day), at 9AM Pacific Time. Wrap parties are planned for many places across the world.
posted by Joe in Australia (106 comments total) 44 users marked this as a favorite
 
The author, Eliezer Yudkowsky, turned the climax a "final exam," asking readers to think of a way for Harry to win in a seemingly-impossible situation in the 60 hours before he posted the next chapter. If nobody came up with a satisfactory solution, there would be "a shorter and sadder ending." In fact, readers at /r/hpmor thought of Eliezer's intended solution within the first hour, but many dismissed it as too obvious, and collectively invented some endings which got him to admit that "your collective literary intelligence has exceeded mine. ... The power I knew not... was /r/hpmor."

Towards the deadline Eliezer posted there saying "Help! My evil plan has worked all too well!":
Yes, this looks totally predictable in retrospect, but I somehow failed to visualize that I would get hundreds and hundreds of thousands of words of reviews, with occasional very rarely interspersed nuggets of idea that nobody else had previously submitted.
Comments on this failure were suitably mocking and hilarious, given that he foresaw this exact planning fallacy in another story.

After reading the best of what the fans came up with I was somewhat disappointed by the actual solution, but participating in the crazily-excessive effort to brainstorm the perfect answer was fun enough to outweigh that. Looking forward to the ending tomorrow.
posted by Rangi at 9:19 PM on March 12, 2015 [6 favorites]


I'm a fairly intense Harry Potter fan and had no idea this even existed. Um. Thanks!
posted by lazaruslong at 9:21 PM on March 12, 2015


It's become popular enough that there's recursive fanfic of the fanfic (fan fiction fan fiction? fan fan fiction fiction? fanfic2?). Daystar rewrote the first few chapters, ironing out some things people had complained about. If you're not hooked by the original, I'd suggest trying his intro.
posted by Rangi at 9:25 PM on March 12, 2015


Well, I guess there's a minimum word quota when talking about Harry Potter fan fiction so let me use more words - this fic sucks. It is a perfect example of the sort of sexist, condescending, mansplaining dude fic found on FF.net and that it is so popular is both hilarious and horrifying.
posted by bgal81 at 9:28 PM on March 12, 2015 [32 favorites]


I paid a lot of tuition money to learn this word, and I hardly ever need it, so I'm passing it on to you guys: antepenultimate.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 9:28 PM on March 12, 2015 [41 favorites]


bgal81: If you dislike HPMOR but don't mind the idea of applying the scientific method to magic, might I suggest Hermione Granger and the Perfectly Reasonable Explanation? It's just 11 chapters so far, but off to a good start, and canon Hermione is a more natural fit for logically thinking about magic than Harry. From the description:
In 1991, a child came to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry with obvious gifts, but which few suspected would change the world... Oh, and Harry Potter enrolled that year as well.
...And now I see it updated a few hours ago, off to read that then.

Pater Aletheias: great word. I first heard it from Flanders and Swann, and yours might be only the second time I've heard it.
posted by Rangi at 10:00 PM on March 12, 2015 [15 favorites]


i'm not the biggest fan of lesswrong, but i'll admit that i read hpmor and benefited. despite the authorial tone of a precocious child smugly reciting malapropisms in a poorly disguised bid for denied affection, it was engaging and clever and eclectic. when i finally was able discard it along with the totalizing adolescent fantasy of intelligence uber alles i totes grew as a human being.

it's not good, but maybe worth discovering for yourself why it is bad?
posted by Ictus at 10:03 PM on March 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


HPMOR is yet another vehicle for Yudkowsky to jerk off about how much smarter he is than everybody else. That's why it is bad.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:22 PM on March 12, 2015 [13 favorites]


I was kind of going that the solution would involve Harry revealing the existence of future godlike AIs, who, out of pure benevolence, would torture perfect virtual simulations of everybody who didn't help them come into existence...
posted by happyroach at 10:45 PM on March 12, 2015 [9 favorites]


HPMOR is yet another vehicle for Yudkowsky to jerk off about how much smarter he is than everybody else.

While that is a very tired view, which I've read many times over the last five years, there is a kernel of truth to it. It's easy to see that part of the appeal of Methods is that it assumes that the reader is smart and wants to be more so. The transhumanist philosophy underpinning its ethics is going to turn a lot of people off, as well.

Merlin, I love it.
posted by topynate at 10:45 PM on March 12, 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.
posted by books for weapons at 10:48 PM on March 12, 2015 [19 favorites]


Ha! I jumped in this thread only to highlight antepenultimate. I see I've been beat; carry on.
posted by sbutler at 10:58 PM on March 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


I don't buy his (insultingly folksy) rape disclaimer from Three Worlds Collide...

Do you seriously think he was trying to justify rape in that story? The whole point of Akon's "folksy" dismissal of rape was to make it clear that this future human society is, in some ways, as inhumane to us as the literal aliens'. In the author's own words:
I was trying to invent, even if I had to do it myself, a better world where I would be out of place. Just like Ben Franklin would be out of place in the modern world.

Definitely not someplace that a transhumanist/science-advocate/libertarian (like myself) would go, and be smugly satisfied at how well all their ideas had worked.
We tend to believe in moral progress now, as opposed to original sin and the decline of man; after all, we've ended (legal) slavery, women can vote, gay people can marry, etc. But in all likelihood there will be some other change hundreds of years from now which everyone considers progress, but which us, their ancestors, would be horrified by. Legal rape is a visceral example of such. Reading it as a serious downplay of rape is almost willfully uncharitable.
posted by Rangi at 11:02 PM on March 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


I liked approximately the first 40 chapters of HPMOR. It's a fun premise and I liked the way he played with Rowling's world. I think he did better with explaining the four Houses than the first JKR book did, at least.

Then, it gets leveling problems. His Harry becomes a superhero with no one to contain or confront him, and the life goes out of it.

I have to say, though, I think Boulet made many of the same points far more punchily in this comic.
posted by zompist at 11:15 PM on March 12, 2015 [12 favorites]


Please don't miss out on reading his most recent author's note. It's pretty fantastically self-aggrandizing.
posted by incessant at 11:21 PM on March 12, 2015 [5 favorites]


To be clear, I was referring to this disclaimer.
A reminder: This is a work of fiction. In real life, continuing to attempt to have sex with someone after they say 'no' and before they say 'yes', whether or not they offer forceful resistance and whether or not any visible injury occurs, is (in the USA) defined as rape and considered a federal felony. I agree with and support that this is the correct place for society to draw the line. Some people have worked out a safeword system in which they explicitly and verbally agree, with each other or on a signed form, that 'no' doesn't mean stop but e.g. 'red' or 'safeword' does mean stop. I agree with and support this as carving out a safe exception whose existence does not endanger innocent bystanders. If either of these statements come to you as a surprise then you should look stuff up. Thank you and remember, your safeword should be at least 10 characters and contain a mixture of letters and numbers. We now return you to your regularly scheduled reading. Yours, the author.
I understand that the point was to pick something horrific but... jeez, I just can't. How utterly wretched to pick that particular thing. It's not clever. It's awful.
posted by books for weapons at 11:21 PM on March 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


I am delighted by this fanfic, and have been greatly enjoying going on this thought experiment for the last couple months. I'm glad i stumbled on it so close to the finale because i don't think could have dealt with years of it.
posted by stoneweaver at 11:23 PM on March 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


Do you seriously think he was trying to justify rape in that story?

No I think it's hack writing.
posted by atoxyl at 11:27 PM on March 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


I've been following HPMOR with interest, though there's plenty to be uncomfortable about with both the fic and the author. I just read through the Hermione fic recommended by Rangi and so far it seems to be pretty excellent.
posted by NMcCoy at 1:24 AM on March 13, 2015


HPMOR is a lot of fun. It's also a hot mess of subplots that don't really mesh with the main story, and a screwy structure which is indicative of a story which is essentially a first draft. It's a bit reflective of its author in that way. EY can often be abrasive and believes some things very fervently that he should, at the very least, have less certainty in. That said some of his writing is really good, and I think it's worth shovelling through the mess to get to it. Just... take it with a large pinch of salt.

I was thinking of making an fpp on this subject. Hpmor has spawned a subreddit, r/rational where they try to find "rational" fics. What this means is something of great contention, but the best example I've found is Alexander wales. All those stories are really rather good, particularly the metropolitan man, although last christmas is a bit skeevy in places.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 1:26 AM on March 13, 2015


Oh, and while 3 worlds collide is uncomfortable in places, I think it's got some fun ideas in it. Quite a lot of EY's short fiction is rather enjoyable.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 1:29 AM on March 13, 2015


I only heard about HPMOR from this Harper's article (the online article is behind a paywall - I got a copy of the magazine at the airport). Apparently the whole thing is very popular with Silicon Valley types, to the point that it really does have an almost cult-like following - which may be obvious to everyone except me.

I couldn't stand it, personally, but it's an interesting reflection of some of the prevailing attitudes at this point in history. Maybe I'll learn to love it when the singularity comes and my consciousness merges with people who are self-evidently smarter than me.
posted by teponaztli at 2:11 AM on March 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


Makes me wish Ted Chiang would write a Harry Potter "rational" fic. That would be interesting. Or Peter Watts!

I tried HPMOR, couldn't get into it, and the author's overall personall worldview is, well, kinda gross.
posted by Doleful Creature at 2:35 AM on March 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


Whatever. HPMOR is hilarious in deeply intelligent ways. If it doesn't appeal to you, I don't know, go read something else.
posted by effugas at 2:56 AM on March 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


People like different things from their fiction. The real Harry Potter is no Moby Dick, but it's a rousingly told tale. It's pointedly not an exercise in world building, and that bothers some people. I can see that for people who want Harry Potter to be more Lord of the Rings, the Rowling books would be an exercise in disappointment. For Christians who need everything they read to be centered around the Bible, there's not much appeal in Harry Potter either. There are lots of ways to "fix" Harry Potter. It surprises me that so many people really want him to be even more of a know-it-all douchebag. I never thought that piece of the story was really lacking from the canon version. But, hey, millions of people think Stephen King is a great writer, so what do I know?
posted by rikschell at 4:50 AM on March 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


Tried it, couldn't get very far into it, never understood the love for it.
posted by kyrademon at 4:57 AM on March 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


My favorite part of HPMOR is when midway through, after Quiddich has been thoroughly mocked as a game with any actual sense to its scoring system, Yudkowsky replaces it with an interminable sequence inspired by "Ender's Game". Complete with Ender's iconic rant about how there is no "up" in zero-gee. My eyes nearly rolled right out of their sockets when that came out of Harry's mouth.

But HPMOR appeals to the exact same part of me that
Ender's Game did. The inner teenager who is absolutely sure they know better than all the adults, if they could just SEE how obviously STUPID they are... I'm old enough to know better now, but it's fun to tickle that part of me with fiction sometimes.

I'd read all of the damn thing up to the last pause. But I was on vacation and away from the Internet when the last few chapters started dropping, and honestly I'm not sure I can be bothered to go back and figure out where I left off. And I sure as hell ain't starting from scratch again. I'm too busy with my own transhumanist fiction.
posted by egypturnash at 5:21 AM on March 13, 2015 [5 favorites]


Tried it, couldn't get very far into it, never understood the love for it.

It's very good at making a particular sort of person feel smart. Unfortunately that is the same sort of person who is sitting at your D&D table insisting you allow the Peasant Railgun or the Locate City nuke.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:30 AM on March 13, 2015 [18 favorites]


Tried it, couldn't get very far into it, never understood the love for it.

I also had this reaction to the Harry Potter series.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 5:43 AM on March 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


I enjoyed the beginning of MoR. Then we had Harry agreeing with Snape that Lily was wrong for never dating him and it just got too annoying. I'm sort of curious what the ending is going to be, but not enough to read 122 chapters of it to find out.
posted by jeather at 5:46 AM on March 13, 2015 [6 favorites]


Given the series' longevity, one of the comments early in the previous thread is ironic:
Though I am exactly the person who would find this sort of thing amusing, I think 10 chapters is a bit much for the joke to drag on.
posted by Gelatin at 5:48 AM on March 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


I can see how it turns some people off, but Yudkowsky's bizarre public profile and strange personal obsessions is absolutely part of the pleasure of HPMOR for me. I just find the entire thing fascinating, and even participated in the final exam.
posted by gerryblog at 6:11 AM on March 13, 2015 [6 favorites]


Everything makes much more sense if you replace Eliezer Yudkowsky with Ayn Rand and HPMoR with Atlas Shrugged.
posted by pan at 6:20 AM on March 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


Atlas Shrugged is dissed by Harry Potter in one of the early chapters.

I am re-reading from the beginning, the first 17 chapters having been re-written to remove Americanisations which makes the thing much more readable for me. In general it is funnier, cleverer and more entertaining to read than any of the original Harry Potter series. It pays me back for the hours spent reading Rowling. I am currently reading the chapter antepenultimate to the first battle of the student armies and entirely enjoying it. I have laughed out loud more time reading this chapter than I did reading the entire original canon.

The way the final exam worked out is telegraphed in the first chapters, much to my amazement. I can't imagine that it was all determined that early in the piece.

I will check out Hermione Granger and the Perfectly Reasonable Explanation.

I am not sure I understand the accusation of sexism in HPMoR. Certainly not in comparison to the female roles in the original series.
posted by asok at 6:37 AM on March 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


I must have missed all the casual asides to rape in the original series.
posted by bgal81 at 6:46 AM on March 13, 2015


Umbridge and the centaurs. But there's nothing casual about how rape is dealt with in HPMOR. Draco's casual attitude to raping the lower classes is how Harry realises how deeply fucked up the politics of magical Britain is.
posted by topynate at 6:52 AM on March 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


Are you talking about the comment that Draco Malfoy makes on platform 9 3/4? That is a casual aside for his character, but used by the author as a recurrent motivator for Harry to change wizarding society? Or are you talking about the fan-fic fan-fic thought experiment where Harry is raped by (a 13 year old female) Draco who gets pregnant with Harry's baby?
posted by asok at 6:53 AM on March 13, 2015


Are there any good summaries or overviews of HPMOR? How it works, the way it introduces ideas, the plot? It's a fascinating phenomenon and I'd like to understand it better, but I'll confess I haven't read the original books and I don't have time to hunker down and read 122 chapters of anything in the near future, sadly.
posted by deathmarch to epistemic closure at 6:59 AM on March 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


Zalzidrax: Though I am exactly the person who would find this sort of thing amusing, I think 10 122 chapters is a bit much for the joke to drag on. (Originally written on April 6, 2010, updated to reflect the true scope of the project.)
posted by filthy light thief at 7:02 AM on March 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


Umbridge and the centaurs is a fan theory with no basis in canon. Applying actual mythology to HP is tricky as JKR happily uses and discards as she wills - see, veelas. Or maybe I missed Fleur turning into some terrifying lizard-bird creature when angry?
posted by bgal81 at 7:05 AM on March 13, 2015


bgal, do you mean to say that the mention of rape in a story is sufficient proof of sexism? how does that even follow? it is not being glorified, it is not being justified, it is something a character is speaking of doing. as asok said, the casualness is intended, to convey just how messed up said character is. if anything the point was to further paint anyone who considers the act so casually in an absolutely negative light. have you actually tried to read the thing you're criticising? or did you just do a ctrl+f search for the word 'rape' and stop at that?
posted by turnips at 7:08 AM on March 13, 2015


deathmarch to epistemic closure: I don't have time to hunker down and read 122 chapters of anything in the near future, sadly

Don't be sad, revel in your diverse and/or interesting life.

But as to your search for a summary, there's a HPMoR-specific wikia, which has a break-down of 24 of the chapters (and not just the first 24, it's a scattered selection), which is a start.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:10 AM on March 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty sure that JKR's veelas do turn into something like that when they're angry (Fleur is only part-veela), but your point that Umbridge being raped by centaurs is a fan theory is well taken. It just seems to fit how JKR deals with issues that are too mature to be explicit about in a children's novel.
posted by topynate at 7:11 AM on March 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


I mean the obsession the author has with rape is just one more example of it being gross and unnecessary and you sound really defensive about your fanfic choices. Also, it is really OOC. When did Draco make jokes about raping people? He doesn't even use the slur mudbloods until the second season so clearly in the first year he was too immature/innocent to go that far but he'll joke about rape? And then there's Harry's gross attitudes towards some of the Weasleys or the fact that Harry is OOC or the entire premise is ridiculous which would be fine if it didn't take itself so seriously.

To bring up another recent example, what is the difference between this fic and the much-mocked series by Andrew Blake? It's not quality of writing, I will tell you that much because they're both different but equal kinds of awful.
posted by bgal81 at 7:14 AM on March 13, 2015


The sexism in hpmor isn't centred too much on that reference to rape (other than a much later reference, sex is thankfully absent from the fic). Instead it's more to do with the main female characters in hpmor and their roles and behaviour in the story. I can't really get into it without massive spoilers though, which feels inappropriate. You can memail me if you'd like more thoughts on it :)
posted by Cannon Fodder at 7:14 AM on March 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


I started to read HPMoR a long time ago, and gave up on it after a while, but there were a few ideas in the early chapters that I thought were amusingly clever. Particularly way it deals with the sorting hat.

As you may remember from the original books, the hat tells Harry that he'd do very well in Slytherin, that Slytherin is a great place for realizing your ambitions, but Harry refuses to accept this because he's already seen Slytherins behaving horribly to people who have been nice to him, and so he gets sorted into Gryffindor.

In HPMoR, Harry wants to be in Ravenclaw, because that's where all the smart people go, and he considers himself to be very smart. Also, he has ambitions of figuring out magic scientifically, and the hat admits that Ravenclaw is the best place to get the resources he needs for such a program of study. But, it points out, Ravenclaw wouldn't be the healthiest place for Harry as a human being. It's very competitive, and he has a tendency to isolate himself from others. What he really needs in order to be happy is a friendly, supportive atmosphere of the sort Hufflepuff would provide.

So, this basically turns the whole thing 90 degrees, giving Harry a choice across a different axis. But in a sense, it's also an inversion. In both versions, he's basically given a choice between friends and ambition. In the original, he hasn't formed any ambitions yet, whereas he has started to make friends, and that affects his choice. Rationalist!Harry, on the other hand, has one very firm ambition -- science-ifying magic -- and while he's made an alliance of sorts on his journey to Hogwarts, he hasn't made any friends. So of course he chooses Ravenclaw.
posted by baf at 7:18 AM on March 13, 2015 [6 favorites]


Fair enough, topynate, as I had forgotten about what JKR had mentioned in other books/Pottermore. Here's a better example. JKR's world is grounded in the Judeo-Christian mythos/religion/what-have-you. People have souls. But unlike in most of Christianity, people's souls do not belong to God and thus can be sucked out by dementors. From a Christian stand-point this makes no sense because souls belong to God and can only be handed over to someone else (if they can) by the person's own free will and yet, in the series, dementors can steal them.

How do I reconcile this? By acknowledging that in JKR's world with a heaven and a purgatory and with saints and ghosts and souls, those same souls can be stolen? Why? I don't know why. A wizard did it.

In the books, out of magical beings, centaurs are probably the most self-actualized and portrayed the most positively. So going from there to rapists is a leap, to say the least.
posted by bgal81 at 7:22 AM on March 13, 2015


Atlas Shrugged is dissed by Harry Potter in one of the early chapters.

HPMoR is a platform for promoting "rationalism" and it and it's communities obsession with Bayes' Theorem reminds me a lot of the Objectivist's A=A nonsense - especially when tied to the whole rejection of science bit (which is weird coming from a story claiming to provide a scientist's perspective).

Both the author and his mouth piece take their world views as givens and then reject competing theories on really no evidence...

The whole thing makes me twitch, and I hope J. K. Rowling's lawyers sue him for constantly trying to monetize his fanfiction.

But I rant.
posted by pan at 7:24 AM on March 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


bgal81 - the fact that Harry is OOC

Harry James Potter-Evans-Verres is not supposed to have the same character as Harry Potter, unless I missed something. There is plenty of reference to the importance of nurture over nature in the story.
posted by asok at 7:28 AM on March 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


You know what I like?

Preantepenultimate.
posted by bq at 8:07 AM on March 13, 2015 [6 favorites]


I'm definitely looking forward to the the last few chapters. After chapter 15 or so I started seeing Harry Potter-Evans-Verres as more of a nerd wish fulfillment fantasy than a 'real person' character and I think the story is quite a lot of fun in that light.
posted by ropeladder at 8:10 AM on March 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


Propreantepenultimate is as far as I know. Why does the prefix change each time, anyway?
posted by topynate at 8:12 AM on March 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


more of a nerd wish fulfillment fantasy than a 'real person' character

Like most amateurish SF protagonists, then?
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 8:18 AM on March 13, 2015


Quirrell more than makes up for any discomfort with Harry's smart-arse nature. Chapter 16 hooked me good and proper.
posted by topynate at 8:49 AM on March 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


I have to say, though, I think Boulet made many of the same points far more punchily in this comic.

This raises a possibility that the Wizarding World is the product of a sort of conspiracy, a distraction where everyone with magical power is shunted aside into this backwards, low tech society shackled to tradition and resistant to progressive thought. The upper echelons of this society are complacent in the conspiracy and routinely produce 'prophecies' and 'Dark Lords' in order to keep the wizarding people oblivious to their ability to radically alter the world.

It's the UFOs, people. Read your Bible!
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:54 AM on March 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


i think a good guide to whether you might be interested in reading this long but erratically brilliant fanfiction is this section from the final authors note:

I've designed an attempted successor to Wikipedia and/or Tumblr and/or peer review, and a friend of mine is working full-time on implementing it..... If anyone knows John Paulson the hedge-fund manager, especially if they know something about his Puerto Rico development project, I’m interested in talking to him about the efficient design of cities, the coordination problems faced by the project of forming a startup hub someplace that isn’t Silicon Valley, and some ideas I’ve had about overcoming the potential energy barriers.

Third, I’m now reasonably certain that most venture capitalists and entrepreneurs are not using the style of thinking that I would use to analyze a startup, or at least they certainly don’t talk like they’re seeing what I see. I would like to test this capability that I think I might have, and see if it is real and can produce excess returns at angel investing. I also think the 2-and-20 system of traditional venture capital does not align interests well, and I would only ask 20% of excess returns over the S&P 500 or the Vanguard bond index fund VBMFX during the same period, whichever does better. Would any investor like to ascend me to angel status?

Also, if anyone is already working on any of the following projects, I would not mind being CC’d in on their email threads (especially if I can successfully ascend to angel investor):

All-robotic car fleets (cars that operate in environments where only other conforming robotic cars are around).
Cheaper pharmaceutical research and development outside of the US and European regulatory regimes.
Financialization of venture capital using non-US equity laws or cryptoequities.
Assaults on obesity that involve directly killing fat cells, rather than futile attempts to mess with the surrounding metabolic processes.
Movable houses that can be shifted between modularly designed house-foundations.
Trying to convince an otherwise residable country with available land to create a special district with econoliterate tax and finance laws (e.g., consumption taxes and land value taxes rather than capital-gains taxes and sales taxes, legal cryptofinance).
Cryptocurrencies that incorporate some form of inflation targeting or NGDP level targeting.
Continuously audited bank accounts.
Quadcopters armed with anti-mosquito lasers, especially if the same system is adaptable to target wasps/hornets/etcetera and other pests.


If someone who writes and thinks like this intrigues you you should probably read HMPOR if that drives you mad turn back now, this is not a road you want to go down!

EY also has another non-fiction book just out now to coincide with HPMOR Rationality: From AI to Zombies I read the blog posts on which it's based but the initial few biased reviews seem to say it's a decent cleaning/pruning of what he has written previously
posted by Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory at 8:57 AM on March 13, 2015 [5 favorites]


Now you've done it. If for some reason I were inclined to troll MeFi's anti-libertarian crowd, I could do no better than advocate all those ideas.
posted by topynate at 9:02 AM on March 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


The thing has 647,235 words in it. The closest comp on the wikipedia list longest novel page is Atlas Shrugged at 645,000 estimated.

There is no way this ain't in the "Get a Life!" department.
posted by bukvich at 9:13 AM on March 13, 2015


Now you've done it. If for some reason I were inclined to troll MeFi's anti-libertarian crowd, I could do no better than advocate all those ideas.
topynate

I'm not sure it's possible to do libertarian trolling, since they're Poe's Law incarnate.
posted by Sangermaine at 9:22 AM on March 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


I read part of it a long time ago when I'd seen a lot of chatter about it. What I found sexist in the part I read was the treatment of Hermione. In Rowling's books, there's already a big imbalance between the number of really important male and female characters: among the people surrounding Harry Potter himself, Hermione is the only female character whose importance through the whole series matches that of Dumbledore, Snape, Ron, and Voldemort. Canon Hermione is a brave Gryffindor like Harry and Ron, but her distinctive edge is her intelligence and bookishness. HPMOR takes that one area where she excelled and makes her second-best to Harry all down the line, at least as far as I read. That made me sad.

But I felt I'd been thoroughly fooled when after what were quite amusing chapters of 'rational Harry does this' and 'rational Harry does that', rational Harry turned around and did something by orders of magnitude more mind-bogglingly stupid than anything ordinary canon Harry ever did. If it had been a physical book, at that point I would have flung it against the wall.
posted by Azara at 9:39 AM on March 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


I mean the obsession the author has with rape is just one more example of it being gross and unnecessary and you sound really defensive about your fanfic choices. Also, it
is really OOC. When did Draco make jokes about raping people? He doesn't even use the slur mudbloods until the second season so clearly in the first year he was too
immature/innocent to go that far but he'll joke about rape? And then there's Harry's gross attitudes towards some of the Weasleys or the fact that Harry is OOC or the entire
premise is ridiculous which would be fine if it didn't take itself so seriously.


It seems as if complaints about canonicity, especially the point about Harry's being non-canonical (which is the premise of the story!), basically are importing standards from a community/practice to which HPMoR is foreign.
posted by kenko at 10:06 AM on March 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


Oh man I stopped reading at Chapter 83 and now will be back in like 20 chapters.
posted by corb at 10:08 AM on March 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


On a side note, Pater Aletheias's link to Cambridge Dictionaries Online page on antepenultimate is damn near unintelligible. So much so, in fact, the site needs to use a ">" in a box to indicate where the definition is on the page. I went to school for graphic design, only to discover the world manages to get by without it...
sheesh
posted by xtian at 10:15 AM on March 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


(I thought HPMoR was fun and neat if a bit tedious/ponderous at times up until, I think, the Snape/Lily bit referenced upthread, at which point it seemed very likely that I'd be treated to a whole lot of Nice Guy tropes if I kept on. Diminishing returns, y'know.)
posted by kenko at 10:20 AM on March 13, 2015


Heh. I have been doing chapter- by-chapter reviews...ish... on this for awhile now. Let's just say I have a few hours per week where I'm supposed to be publicly working and all eyes are on me, judging. I frequently run out of actual work to do during this time and will get my head ripped off if I do anything that doesn't look industrious, so I started sending myself chapters in e-mail and reading/writing reviews during this time. This has worked out just lovely for me.

It's an interesting read. Crazy at times, dull at times, way too much emo Dumbledore and Snape for my tastes, but frequently I think that JKR didn't think out enough stuff and maybe she should have. As for the Hermione thing, I'm only done up to chapter 80, but I think the guy is making some pretty good angst and drama about her being "second best" and trying not to be and wanting to be more than just Harry-adjacent.

I finally got to the point where I was caught up on writing reviews of the chapters I've already read, and now he's almost done with it....which leads to the debate of "do I try to catch up reading with everyone else today" (I speed read, I theoretically could attempt this) or just say fuck it, I'll just go on this schedule because once I run out of chapters I am gonna have a lot of dead time staring at the wall.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:35 AM on March 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


Last month I read Jo Walton's new book The Just City which is quite comparable to HPMOR in being an erratic piece of sometimes brilliant fanfiction (for Plato's Republic!) though much better written as you would expect from a multiple Hugo/Nebula winner - anyway I bring it up because that's a book which really does use rape as a clumsy plot device. HPMOR uses rape as a tool to trip your mind into realising how horrendous the Cruicatus curse / dark magic is and how evil people who cast it have to be. There are pretty bad problems with how HPMOR treats Hermione and other female characters but the references to rape are not one of them - much more cringeworthy is the embarrassing SPHEW stuff and the later Hermione plot lines.
posted by Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory at 11:13 AM on March 13, 2015


To be fair, to attempt to read this as traditional character-driven fanfic would be to miss the point. If I'd come across this with no idea of its provenance I'd probably be impressed with the obsessive devotion it obviously entailed. But I know Yudkowsky is a self-important borderline-crank who not-so-secretly takes it extremely seriously - and somehow convinces other people to take him all too seriously - which kind of ruins it for me.
posted by atoxyl at 12:52 PM on March 13, 2015


Heh. I have been doing chapter- by-chapter reviews...ish... on this for awhile now.

I'd like to read those.

I think that JKR didn't think out enough stuff and maybe she should have.

This is very true. I just don't think HPMOR did that very well either.
posted by jeather at 12:55 PM on March 13, 2015


I have a lot of feelings about HPMOR, both positive and negative. I've read the whole thing, up to the current chapter, and found much of it interesting. If I needed to distill what I don't like about it down to one point it would be this:
I'm frightened by how devoted so many HPMOR fans are to the character who is ultimately revealed to be the primary antagonist, and how eager many are to justify and excuse his behavior. Yes, this is a character that Yudkowsky wrote as being smart, sometimes sympathetic, and a mentor to Harry but it is also a character who is explicitly written as a classic sociopath. This character straight up murders someone (obvious to any reader familiar with canon, but not to Harry) all the way back in chapter 26, among other misdeeds. Yudkowsky is on the record outside of the story as saying he worried he had made it too obvious this was really the bad guy. Yet readers love him. You don't get points for not constantly murdering everyone you feel is inferior, just because you're reasonable enough to understand that doing so could have negative consequences for you, yet sometimes the vibe I get is that's the type of person who gravitates to what is supposed to be a fable about rationality and humanism. That freaks me out, and I think Yudkowsky should devote some more of his time to reflecting on why this is so.


My thoughts in response to other criticisms brought up in this thread:
  1. HPMOR is about "intelligence uber alles" - Not at all. Ostensibly it's about humanism and rationally achieving humanist objectives. It certainly is an author tract; Yudkowsky has some Important Ideas and we're all along for the ride. He explicitly wrote it as an introduction to what he calls rationalism. Much of the fun of reading it imho is derived from just enjoying the ride.
  2. "Rational" Harry did XYZ stupid thing - Yudkowsky's Harry is supernatually intelligent, but he's not supposed to be perfect. Yes, EY uses him to spout didactic stuff about rationalism and (trans)humanism, but as a character in a story he is often misguided or wrong. Indeed, most of the plot is driven by his repeated mistakes. This is intentional, though you don't have to like it.
  3. The writing is bad - Well, yeah. It's didactic and often pretty bad. On the other hand a lot of complaints are unfair if you accept some of the conceits of Yudkowsky's plot, notably (spoiler) that Harry is not just an 11 year old prodigy. A lot of this was only revealed or confirmed in the last month though, so people have had years to complain that the characterization is unrealistic.
  4. Less Wrong (EY's other big web project) is weird/bad/wrong/misguided - Yeah they have some pretty out there stuff, I won't disagree with that. See discussion here, as linked by Ictus above.
  5. [rape squick] - A case can be made that Yudkowsky's occasional mention of rape is bad/clumsy writing, but to say he's obsessed is nonsense. Early on in HPMOR Draco makes a comment threatening rape because the author is trying to show how normal non-psycho people can be socialized to find horrible acts acceptable if the targets are sufficiently dehumanized (especially in a wizard culture that has mind control and memory erasure). It might not be well written but to deny the truth of that is to deny human nature. Distinguishing between Draco (horrible beliefs but mutable and understandable given his cultural context and upbringing) vs. the primary antagonist (a narcissistic remorseless sociopath) is a major point of the HPMOR story.
So I won't defend the writing, though there are bits that I find delicious, especially when Yudkowsky is skewering some really problematic bit of the wizarding world (I love canon HP, but it was written for children, not as a well thought out secondary world). And I don't get why HPMOR is often held up as a must-read intro to fanfiction- in many ways it's very segregated from the fanfiction culture and community. But there's a lot of interesting thinking in there about the implications of magic for someone with a scientific and/or humanist mindset. I'd never insist someone read it but I wouldn't discourage anyone either. On balance I'm very glad I have.
posted by Wretch729 at 1:04 PM on March 13, 2015 [10 favorites]


You really can't disassociate HPMOR from LessWrong- it's just another way of promoting the same inane ideas and values.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:25 PM on March 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


Okay, I just finished up until now, and fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck is my immediate reaction. The last chapters reminded me why I had loved HPMoR in the first place and have hit me all the way in the feels. If you haven't read it, but might, go read it now. Extremely minor spoilers may lie below.

That said - here is why HPMoR is so fucking good and why so many of us have gravitated to it -

1) So many of us fell in love with Harry Potter simply because it was the ideal time to do so, because it was complex with Good and Evil struggles and magic and lonely children and adult loss and teen shit and because in many ways some of us grew up with it, because we got to see the books coming one after the other. For many of us in nerddom, it is our generation's Star Wars. And like Star Wars, the underlying world building is just not very fucking good. JK Rowling does create problems with the consistency of magic, and she does bring in problem tropes with James and Lily and fat people and who looks right and noble and who doesn't. And she uses the tropes associated with terrible boarding schools to include them at a boarding school supposedly run by the most kindly and wise old wizard there is. And it just doesn't fucking hang together. So many of us have been hungry without knowing it for a better one. In some ways I think that's why the Harry Potter fanfic has been so deep and so prevalent. We wanted it done better. We wanted a smart Harry Potter, we wanted a smart Voldemort, we wanted a smart Dumbledore, we wanted a badass Hermione that got a great ending rather than just shoved off with an incompetent in some bullshit endnote.

2) By avoiding romance, he has united us all - all the warring ships and the "oh fuck nos" of Harry Potter fandom are joined. We can just enjoy the characters for who they are rather than have to worry that our favorite ships aren't sailing.

3) Yudkowsy is indeed, kind of an asshole, and not nearly as smart as he thinks he is. But he's still pretty fucking smart. I would put him probably in the top 1% of the population in intelligence - which means both more and less than it might appear to the average observer. I'm sure Metafilter itself has a higher than average proportion of that 1%. In fact, as measured by standardized testing, I'd be willing to bet we have an enormous, proportionally, amount of them. So yes, we may not think that he's that fucking smart, because he's not smarter than our friends and the people we argue with. But he's still pretty fucking smart and I'm willing to bet he's smarter than JK Rowling. I'm not saying he's a better writer than JK Rowling. I'm saying smarter.

4) #3 means that those of us who are smart - again, as quantatatively measured in various forms of testing against the average population which is really not all that bright in the first place, rather than in "I am a genius!" level - really, really enjoy the plotting in HPMoR in ways that we did not necessarily enjoy the plotting and ridiculously uncomplicated morality in Harry Potter itself. I mean, really, the fucking Horcruxes? You get eternal life if only you are willing to kill someone but this is something almost no one is willing to do? In the mundane world of our reality, thousands and thousands of people kill each other every day for far more trivial reasons.
posted by corb at 1:38 PM on March 13, 2015 [11 favorites]


Oh, also - the Nice Guy stuff is actually repudiated later in the text, though I understand if no one stuck around to find that out.
posted by corb at 1:39 PM on March 13, 2015


Heh. I have been doing chapter- by-chapter reviews...ish... on this for awhile now.

I'd like to read those.


Ooookay... I don't have an easy way to find them all at the moment (I'll probably put a post with links to all posts after I finish the whole thing), but here's chapter 80 and it might just be easier to start clicking backwards to find previous chapters than starting on chapter 1 and searching thereafter. They're categorized in ScienceFiction/Fantasy starting in late April 2014, though I didn't do them on a regular basis starting out and there was a long hiatus after I hit my limit on reading Emo Dumbledore for awhile.

I also have waaaaaaaaaaaaaay too many large quote chunks, but sometimes you just can't summarize what this dude is talking about. Other times, you gotta cut to the chase though!
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:44 PM on March 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


And another thing - HPMoR is the only fanfic I have ever seen to point out that hey, actually Azkaban is pretty horrific even for people which were actually deserving of being in prison there.
posted by corb at 1:54 PM on March 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


And I don't get why HPMOR is often held up as a must-read intro to fanfiction- in many ways it's very segregated from the fanfiction culture and community.

As far as I can tell the "fanfiction culture and community" is all about turning people's favorite characters into sex puppets. Not being any particular fan of Harry Potter to begin with, I only read the first dozen or so chapters of HPMoR before getting bored, but I really appreciated the fact that the author was trying to do something more substantial than just inventing excuses for imaginary people to bang each other. It makes me think maybe there could be something to this fanfiction business after all, if people took it a little more seriously.
posted by Mars Saxman at 2:09 PM on March 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


As far as I can tell the "fanfiction culture and community" is all about turning people's favorite characters into sex puppets.

Last year I gathered some statistics on the 15 years of FanFiction.net stories about Harry Potter. Out of over 665,000 stories, the one with the most favorites per word was "Love at first sight" (4 words, 213 favorites):
(Category: Romance/Humor; Characters: Hermione G., Severus S)
Full text: "They banged. The End"

And then there's this... thing... which someone informed me exists. Not really sure if they count as "favorite characters," but sex definitely happens.

Still, even by a super-Sturgeon's Law where 99.99% of everything is crap, that leaves at least 60 good fanfics.
posted by Rangi at 2:18 PM on March 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


I really, really don't like MoR. It's one of those fanfic where you start to read, and it becomes increasingly obvious over the course of reading that the author has Very Clear Ideas, and that the protagonist (who just so happens to also have the same Very Clear Ideas) is going to serve part-time job as a mouthpiece every time the author wants to get on his soapbox. And usually it's going to happen very, very blatantly.

And if you're real unlucky in your choice of fic, the author is going to have a couple of characters he doesn't like so much already do something stupid, so that naturally the protagonist can win over them and then explain, in paragraphs, why The Protagonist Is Right And They Are Wrong.

Bonus points if, in order to accomplish all this, he tweaks characters' personalities in the same way Gallagher got famous tweaking watermelons.

But you know what? This wasn't what sapped my main potential enjoyment of this fic, oddly enough.

(You can actually stop reading this comment now. From this point on it becomes oblique and tangential and some of it is basically just me using the excuse of "we're talking about a fanfic" to spin off into something...well, oblique and tangential.)

I hang around a bunch on a site dedicated to what some folks call "quest" fanfic. Basically, how it goes is that an author writes a bit of a fic, providing a number of choices at the end for their readers to vote on, and whichever choice gets the most votes determines the direction the next bit of fic goes, and so on. Simple enough concept.

There was a story a while back, where the protagonist character (i.e. the character partly controlled by the readers' votes) was some sort of little human-looking monster, having mini-adventures with all sorts of other human-looking monsters. General opinion was that it was a pretty good story. I mean, most of us weren't writing Sistine Chapel material or anything, but it was pretty damn passable on the side of good.

And then came the snowball fight.

Oh dear, the snowball fight. Ask anyone in the community who was around back then about the snowball fight, and they'll kind of just groan.

Winter had rolled upon the characters, in-story, and the author had gotten an idea. The next bit of hijinkery for the main character and their friends to get involved in would be a snowball fight! No, not a snowball fight, but a snowball battle, with all the characters wholeheartedly dedicated to the goal of pelting each other into submission. It would be whimsical and magical. And yet, also epic. This wouldn't be just a snowball fight, but the snowball fight. The main character (and, by extension, the voters) would have to think tactically in response to ever-changing circumstances, keeping the weaknesses and strengths of their opponents in mind.

And so, the author set down the setup, and asked the voters what their first action would be. Shelter here, perhaps. Or an offense here, or circle around and strike from the side.

The voters voted. A week passed, the author writing his response. And the next bit of action was posted.

The main character, as per the votes, had moved themselves into another position, into another set of circumstances. It was very dramatic, and the author made sure to include all the relevant information—what snow supplies the character had, for example. Who they could see. Who they couldn't. Who was allied—for now—and who most definitely wasn't. And in a tense moment, the author asked his voters—well, what are you going to do now? Bunker down? Go for a surprise attack? Sneak away? Straight out betrayal?

The voters voted. A week passed, the author writing his response. And the next bit of action was posted.

The main character was elsewhere, now. They had made their actions as per the voters' wish. Now things had changed, in this epic snowball fight to the end. Luck was on their side—or was it? Luck, like all things, is ephemeral. But the character had made their choice (or the voters' choice, rather), and now they were in a better position, or maybe worse. The suspense was palpable. And in that moment, the author asked his voters what they would do.

The voters voted. A week passed, the author writing his response. And the next bit of action was posted.

It probably occurred to a few readers, then, that the snowball fight was going to take a while—barely any time had passed at all, in-story, and no characters had yet been struck down in a barrage of cold fury. Still, spirits were high, and it wasn't as if nothing was happening. Plenty was happening! Watch that character make action, and watch the other characters make their own actions in return! Watch as circumstances change! Watch as drama ensues, as pressure comes to bear. And also, please—the author requested of their readers—vote.

The voters voted. A week passed, the author writing his response. And the next bit of action was posted.

It began to dawn on readers that despite there being a lot of very dramatic and suspenseful and epic things happening, nothing much was happening at all. The circumstances were changing, but all that change ever did was slot the main character into another damnable position in the same battle. It felt like something from an exciting tactical RPG—Fire Emblem, for example, or Advance Wars—but with every turn narrated in excruciating detail.

The snowball fight killed the story. That's not an exaggeration—the voters dwindled away, abandoning it as they found the everlasting snowball hell too tedious to stand, and though the author finally realized their mistake and tried to put a quick, abrupt end to the arc, it was too late. The fanfic followed the fate of the innumberable fics that had come before it, and became a deadfic.

In conclusion, I might have stuck with MoR for a while, even if it made my eyes roll back so far into my skull I could see my own brain. But never-ending wizard wargames were a drag, dude.
posted by KChasm at 2:21 PM on March 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


I really enjoyed HPMoR when I read what was around a few years ago, when the story topped off at the Azkaban breakout. I'll have to go back and finish it.

What I particularly liked was the characterization of Harry. Rowling's Harry was such a blank slate that he made Luke Skywalker look like a fully-fledged character by comparison. Yudkowsky created a better Harry, even with the not-so-occasional didactic moments. There was an awesome moment when he described Harry as the sort of boy who would buy RPG manuals just to read but would never play with others. A beautiful summary of a certain type of nerdish kid. One I could easily identify with.

As others have said in this thread, I also really liked fleshing out Rowling's world, and looking at the logical implications of it. In terms of world-building and, specifically, making a magical boarding school story more interesting to adult readers, I think Yudkowsky did a better job than The Magicians. There was an infectious, if naive, optimism in HPMoR which was completely lacking in the terribly depressing world of Grossman's book. One of the core messages is: the wizarding world is terrible, but it's possible to make it better and here's how we'll do it. It's a nice change from the grimmer fantasy / sci-fi I've read. That combined with showing the fun parts of the scientific process, making discoveries and having theories validated, make this a particularly enjoyable read for me.

This optimism, and the belief that most everyone could reach great heights, was also what made the know-it-all parts of Harry / Yudkowsky palatable. I can understand why Yudkowsky has such a cult following. I probably would have been very susceptible if I was in my teens.
posted by honestcoyote at 2:25 PM on March 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


EY also has another non-fiction book just out now to coincide with HPMOR Rationality: From AI to Zombies

Pay what you want, if anyone else was mildly interested, as I was.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 2:47 PM on March 13, 2015


Azara -Canon Hermione is a brave Gryffindor like Harry and Ron, but her distinctive edge is her intelligence and bookishness. HPMOR takes that one area where she excelled and makes her second-best to Harry all the way.

I am up to chapter 31 on my re reading and so far Hermione is the best at everything other than broomstick flying. Just saying.

Yudkowsky may be a cretin, I don't know. The subtlety of the inclusion of 'rationalist' ideas in HPMoR suggests he is not going to turn the world rationalist by stealth. But despite the blatant shortcomings of the writing I still find it more light hearted and playful than HP canon.
There have been a number of people interviewed recently regarding the appeal of the Discworld series. Many of them have said that it puts normal people into a fantasy world. That rings true for MoR for me. Harry's like, WTF wizarding world? Sort it out!
posted by asok at 2:49 PM on March 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


3) Yudkowsy is indeed, kind of an asshole, and not nearly as smart as he thinks he is. But he's still pretty fucking smart...I'm sure Metafilter itself has a higher than average proportion of that 1%. In fact, as measured by standardized testing, I'd be willing to bet we have an enormous, proportionally, amount of them.

Teacher here would like to point you to the mountains of evidence showing the problems with standardized testing, and therefore, your premise here.

Would like to, but can't, because brain aneurysm.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 2:54 PM on March 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


Is this going to turn into another sodding IQ fight, because I was hoping to save my booze for the wrap party tomorrow.
posted by topynate at 3:02 PM on March 13, 2015


> "Rowling's Harry was such a blank slate ..."

Today I learned that some people have apparently read completely different versions of the Harry Potter books than I did.
posted by kyrademon at 3:27 PM on March 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


But you read the right ones.

You know it in your heart.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 3:27 PM on March 13, 2015


Teacher here would like to point you to the mountains of evidence showing the problems with standardized testing, and therefore, your premise here

Imagine if you will your perfect ideal IQ test, so we avoid this fight. In any such situation, there will be a top 1%, and I'm willing to bet that regardless of what values your IQ test has, there are a lot of Mefites up in there. High levels of literacy build intelligence.
posted by corb at 4:10 PM on March 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


"And what's the moral of today's battle?" said General Granger.
"We can do anything if we study hard enough! "
posted by asok at 4:16 PM on March 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


Azara -Canon Hermione is a brave Gryffindor like Harry and Ron, but her distinctive edge is her intelligence and bookishness. HPMOR takes that one area where she excelled and makes her second-best to Harry all the way.

Specifically, it takes something Hermione is significantly better than Harry at and gives him a boost for no other reason than the fact that to Yudkowsky that's the only way to keep him the star.


Imagine if you will your perfect ideal IQ test, so we avoid this fight.

Imagine if you will that such a thing is impossible because IQ is a nonsense idea with an entirely pernicious history start to finish.
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:30 PM on March 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


*glug*
posted by topynate at 4:38 PM on March 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


I am definitely on the side that says IQ tests are a perfectly valid concept as long as you have reasonable expectations of what they tell you. But IQ is part of the problem here because Yudkowsky is definitely the sort of guy who gets a high SAT score when he's 15 and decides he's destined to be a true self-taught polymath and set all the so-called experts straight. If I wasn't aware of the personality and ideology behind it I might be able to enjoy more of this in a "fun with math and science" but since I do it's just [sm]uggggh.
posted by atoxyl at 5:15 PM on March 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


"But IQ is part of the problem here because Yudkowsky is definitely the sort of guy who gets a high SAT score when he's 15 and decides he's destined to be a true self-taught polymath and set all the so-called experts straight."

On a rafting school trip, I remember a classmate lecturing us that he had to be leading from the front of the raft because he'd gotten a perfect 1600 on his SATs — all the while, he had his helmet on backwards.

Anyway, I found HPMoR incredibly tediously written when I tried to get into it a couple years ago — Rowling's big draw for me is that she knows how to pace things and write a page turner. Has the rewrite made MoR any better?
posted by klangklangston at 5:34 PM on March 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm going to offer a defense of the fanfic.

ALL OF THE SPOILERS, though I assume anyone who cares has left already.

Right near the end of the story it's revealed that harry isn't just a smart eleven year old, he actually had the entire mind of an extremely well and widely educated adult replace his own mind just after he was born- and then this weird magically overdeveloped brain with all of the plasticity of an infant was put into the best possible environment to learn, arranged so by prophecies about how smart the main character is.

HPMOR!Hermione is not a mega-genius whose black hole of intellect bends time before and after itself, she's just a regular eleven year old girl who likes reading. And in the whole story she's presented as effectively equal to Harry, above his second best ally/student, Draco (who also had the priviledges of wealth and power and respect), and regular old Hermione is easily the match to either one on a battlefield. Harry explicitly says that she is proof sexism and racism are worse than useless as ideas. Right before the 'final exam' Voldemort, the almost perfectly informed, stupidly overwritten supergenius, decides that Hermione is fully qualified to make decisions about whether any and all future efforts by Harry could endanger the earth or life on it and goes to great pains to bring her back to life and then some as a scientific partner and equal to Harry, who he sees as his equal and mirror and who he refers to by his own name. Voldemort considers Hermione more trustworthy than himself.

There's a bit in the last few chapters where Harry kind of realizes that he was underestimating a LOT of people because he didn't have the same information and experience as they did, specifically Mcgonigal and Amelia Bones (who instantly deduces the brain wipe thing well before Harry is told, and thereby embarrasses Moody for not noticing).

Problematic or nonsensical elements might be present on lesswrong and in Yudkowsky's other work, I've never read it and likely never will because there are a million other great authors yet to get to, but this one work I've read features the main character bursting into tears when he realizes he can't get free infinite government healthcare to everyone before any other strangers die. Harry's greatest regret at the end of the story is that someone he personally hated who opposed everything he cared about couldn't be saved.

For all of its faults Methods of Rationality spells out pretty clearly that the most important purpose of science and rationality is to make life longer and more enjoyable for as many people as possible, and the villain's greatest failing is stated outright as not treating everyone with dignity, no exceptions. Nobody deserves eternal punishment and nobody deserves to die.

It's an appealing message.
posted by sandswipe at 11:22 PM on March 13, 2015 [11 favorites]


I guess if you can get past the sneering elitism and casual misogyny to find it.

So what's this about the author having his own weird little singularity cult?
posted by bgal81 at 4:54 AM on March 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


Thinking about the derail a bit,

So I got a perfect score on every standardized test I've every taken except AP Chemistry (SAT, GRE, SAT II for a half-dozen subjects, lots of AP's) and years of experience with psychometry previous and after this, giving tests and receiving them. My conclusion is that they are useless for determining intelligence and very useful for determining the lack of intelligence. This is what colleges basically use them for. I've also got an incredible array of tricks to do better on standardized testing, and that's the basic reason why I do so well on that bullshit.

Both tests, and most standardized tests, assume a sort of distribution over human intelligence. The psychometricians assumed the central limit theorem holds because it holds over very many domains of human physical traits: height, limb size, drinking ability, whatever. So the factor-analytic stuff and the linear algebra that goes into constructing the damn things depends fundamentally on this Gaussian assumption.

One suspicious thing about the IQ test, at least, and certainly about the SAT, is that the scores go up with education. If you think for five seconds, this correlational structure makes impossible central limit theorem out of the water, and so you'll have some different distribution with really different tail behavior. On the lower tail, this doesn't matter so much.

Because they are doing factor analyses, if there is nonlinear information between intelligence and anything else, they will smoosh it into a smooth G factor that will all correlate. But if you think for a little bit, intelligence is suffused with nonlinearities: this is basically the same critique as Minsky made against the perceptron which can't learn non-linearly separable things. So I doubt the ability of a G factor to mean anything, and certainly not to mean anything linear.

Don't predict tail behavior because you can't, just know the fatness of the tail and don't make silly Gaussian assumptions: that was NN Taleb (granted, another asshole, if what I've heard about him is true, but an asshole in search of virtue)'s basic lesson to the world.
posted by curuinor at 9:23 AM on March 14, 2015


>I guess if you can get past the sneering elitism and casual misogyny to find it.

The first half of the last chapter is the hero being embarrassed about acting way smarter than he ever really was and vowing to not be so confident and elitist.
He outright says misogyny is bad a couple of times and then the main character tells a girl 'I'm a fuckup, you're the real hero' at the end (but with more words. So many words). It's not perfect but it gets a little better over time and I'm going to give him points for actively trying to not be misogynist.
posted by sandswipe at 10:57 AM on March 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


I read a little more than half of HPMOR— all of what was available at the time— and the treatment of Hermione is part of what I called Yudkowsky's leveling problems.

In the wizarding duels, there's a bit where Harry gets so good that he's opposed by two other teams, and his own team is reduced in size as well, and he still wins. That's a leveling problem. It's a narrative failure when the author doesn't provide the protagonist with enough challenge.

Then there's a whole subplot where Hermione wants to have her own heroic adventures. And they don't go well, and Harry has to intervene. It's insulting to the character and another sign that the author wasn't up to writing equally developed characters.

If these things changed later on, great, but it sounds like he also introduced this "adult brain" business which is mega-stupid.
posted by zompist at 12:44 PM on March 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yeah, the last chapter actually clears up and makes right a lot of The Problem Of Hermione - it seems that a lot of The Problem Of Hermione was meant to be Harry's problem, succumbing to Overconfidence Bias, and as he levels up, he realizes a lot more that Hermione was better at things.
posted by corb at 1:29 PM on March 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


Oh, also, if anyone is interested, there's also fanfic of HPMoR now, which I think actually winds up with some more interesting paths than the original.
posted by corb at 4:50 PM on March 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


Well, I finished it. I'm not totally satisfied with the conclusion, but it really does address the Problem of Hermione very thoroughly and in a way that was telegraphed long before: Hermione has strengths that Harry lacks and they don't come down to being more of a swot. In fact, the undertext of HPMoR is that Harry's way (which is also Voldemort's way and Dumbledore's way) of keeping things to himself is not only insufficient and isolating, but hugely risky. Going forward, Hermione will be leading and Harry will effectively take the role of Hermione in the original stories: the smart, powerful friend who is narratively thrust into the role of sidekick. So.

Anyway, Yudkowsky has said he's done with the story. It's been fun.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:36 PM on March 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


The story of HPMoR Harry is interestingly similar to Yudkowsky's personal mythology, in that he thought he had everything figured out by the time he was in his mid-teens -- you can find his essays from that time period if you look -- and he's now seriously embarrassed by how off-base he was. (But of course he's on target now.)
posted by Bryant at 9:08 PM on March 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


Rowling's big draw for me is that she knows how to pace things and write a page turner

How long did they spend in the forest in Deathly Hallows? Because it felt like about real time while I was reading it.
posted by hades at 2:34 AM on March 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


"Sure it's elitist and misogynist and gross for the first million pages, but the last page refutes that! Why are you judging by the first million pages instead of by the million and first page?"
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:25 AM on March 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


Elitist?! A Harry Potter fanfic?! Let me remind you about life in the Potterverse. If you are one of the hereditary elite you are educated (for free!) in an amazing castle somewhete in picturesque Scotland. Your clothes are cleaned magically, your health attended to, and you eat banquets prepared by slaves. As an adult, you can literally command every non-magical human. Your interests are protected by the true government pf Britain - the Wizengamot - whose very existence is unknown to lesser humans ("---gles"). No aristocrats in the history of humanity have been as privileged as Rowling's magic-users. HPMOR deconstructs a bit of this but, if it betrays its sins of origin, that's hardly something to be laid at Yudkowsky's door.
posted by Joe in Australia at 12:26 PM on March 15, 2015 [7 favorites]


Let's not forget that in canon Harry Potter, the one person (Hermione) who has moral qualms about being served by slaves is relentlessly mocked as everyone, including the text, goes out of their way to tell her she is being silly, because the slaves like being slaves.
posted by corb at 9:50 AM on March 16, 2015 [4 favorites]




Everyone has probably moved on by this point but one important criticism I somehow managed to leave out of my longer comment above is that the HPMOR should mostly not be read for the purpose of learning about science/scientific methods. I enjoyed HPMOR for many reasons but as the reviewer in kenko's link points out Yudkowsky's science knowledge and pedagogy are erratic and unreliable, the fic never delivers on its promise of using science to explain the laws of magic (a major disappointment for me), and for someone supposedly dedicated to scientific rationalism HPMOR's Harry is stunningly uncurious at times.
posted by Wretch729 at 8:48 PM on March 19, 2015 [5 favorites]


I just noticed something that is actually pretty good foreshadowing: in chapter 17, Harry and Dumbledore have this conversation:
“So... why do I have to carry this rock exactly?”
“I can’t think of a reason, actually,” said Dumbledore.
“...you can’t.” Dumbledore nodded.
“But just because I can’t think of a reason doesn’t mean there is no reason.”
Harry gives Dumbledore a tiresome lecture on how there are a zillion things that might possibly be a good idea, and you can't privilege one of them just on the chance that it turns out to be a smart thing to do. At the end of the book, though, it turns out that Dumbledore has been spoiler and so it's probably no coincidence that spoiler. So it turns out that Dumbledore just being absolutely frank about spoiler.

Hover over the text to read the spoilers.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:27 AM on March 22, 2015


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