A rationalist My Little Pony fanfic

by DataPacRat1 min read10th Aug 2012102 comments

13

Personal Blog

For the past two months, I've been writing, and posting, roughly two thousand words a day of "Myou've Gotta be Kidding Me", a story set in a "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic" fanfic universe, "Chess Game of the Gods". Outside of the sheer NaNoWriMo-like exercise of pushing out near-daily chapters, I've also been trying to keep in mind the various principles I've learned from Yudkowsky and LessWrong, and to try to present them in a way that people who like reading MLP fanfics might be able to appreciate.

I've just come to something of a minor climax with chapter 60, and while I'll definitely be continuing the story, this seems like a good time to mention it here, for whatever feedback and constructive criticism anyone cares to offer.

102 comments, sorted by Highlighting new comments since Today at 12:22 AM
New Comment
Some comments are truncated due to high volume. (⌘F to expand all)Change truncation settings

First impressions:

  • too heavy on LW shibboleths and hence too high an inferential distance (he's complaining about the absence of cryonics? How about statistics or math or logic or just materialism, first?).
  • The paraphrase of Eliezer's steel golem strategy is very clunky, and doesn't seem like it should impress Sparkle.
  • The udder passage could be funnier.

I'd comment on chapter 2, but the site just went down for maintenance. >.<

2DataPacRat8yI freely admit that, looking back at the first chapters, I wince at how clunky and clumsy I was when trying to present certain ideas. I think I managed to improve at that some, and I am trying to do better still. I do continue using the protagonist's udder as a plot point in future chapters. The site is, unfortunately, nicknamed '502fiction' for a reason. I'm now wondering if I should cross-post the story to another site, such as FanFiction.net.

Ch2-7:

  • ruminating on the downsides of being a female cow would seem to be a good lesson in empathy for human females, but the point seems to be lost on her.
  • the Queen gives in quite quickly. Even in Equestria, surely there are many scammers and leeches and deluded people that a simple Pascal's wager wouldn't work.
  • Stealing from MoR? really? Most of the passage too?! Again, jumping to those specific bits are not what a non-LWer rationalist would do; instead, they'd point out something about perpetual motion or bombs. Don't bring up time travel unless your character can actually say clearly how it would lead to time travel! (Grr, it's not deducing if the character can't even explain it, as I bet you can't.) I note with disapproval the blatant theft in chapter 13 as well.
  • Would the character really expect the queen to know a word like 'sapience'? I expect even most LWers would get it wrong and confuse it with 'sentience'.
  • Hilarious udder joke. But I'm surprised any cow would be that flexible...
  • 'consultat'
  • 'Luna looked pained, and looked away from us both, which was answer enough', isn't this obviously an answer to her previous question about where she is in the timeline?
  • 'the delibe
... (read more)
6DataPacRat8yThe royals in this setting have been shown in other stories to be, generally, about as practical as characters in a cartoon aimed at children tend to be - eg, holding onto letters from a pirate until a bunch have been collected, to read them all at once, instead of as they come in. That said, they are also known to have powerful magic - including, as a significant factor in this story, several forms of honesty-detection. I'll admit that most of that wasn't the best choice I could have made. If I ever do a rewrite, that bit will be one of the most thoroughly rewritten bits. The character in question was plucked from Earth from early April, 2012. Another note for a future rewrite might be to more explicitly mention that she's drawing ideas from certain pieces of rationalist fiction. I checked. They can indeed do so - it can cause a significant degradation of output, so dairies sometimes have to train cows to not do so. I'm not quite sure what you mean. If it helps - in the cartoon, Luna was banished for a thousand years, after becoming a monster who tried to place the land under eternal night, her return and rehabilitation forming the plot of the first episode. This refers to the initial few lines of the first chapter, when the protagonist was punted by a mysterious stranger into Equestria; and is more thoroughly dealt with in a later chapter. The zebra in question is a character from the cartoon, who has the quirk of speaking in rhymes. Yes, that was the intended joke there. After all the protagonist was jailed for the crime of 'littering', after doing carefully undescribed things to the unicorns who attacked her. Given the differences between the audience here and the standard audience at FimFiction.net - a response like that was the best I aimed for.
4gwern8yEh. You can make up in-universe reasons, but it still comes off as sloppy... a good idea should be independently inventable or findable. Wow. I guess I have learned something from this fic. So we're supposed to infer that that was part of what she told the queens and they in turn immediately zeroed in on it as the best explanation? Still feels like a hole. More notes: * ch34: use of Laplace's law painfully didactic. It's perfectly valid to use it in those circumstances, but it could have been explained so much better. For example: "Why should I go in? Half the times I've visited before, they've tried to kill me. Why should I expect that to be different now?" And then you can have her ruminate something like "that was actually a valid bit of reasoning; it was called Laplace's Law on Earth, where Laplace asked if something had happened 1 out of, say, 10 times, and that was all you knew, how much should you expect it to happen again? 2 / 12; half the time you'll be too high and half too low, which is the best you can hope to do." I bet you can come up with an even clearer explanation. You're the fic writer, after all.
2DataPacRat8yI'm only aiming to write my protagonist as being an aspiring Bayesian rationalist, not a Yudkowsky-level or HJPEV-level one. In a later chapter, while her emotions are being artificially manipulated, her inner monologue reads: ... which, I hope, describes what I've been aiming for reasonably well. Then it quite probably is one. Well, at least I know I was able to get across the idea that she was being painfully didactic. What I seem to have failed at is explaining that it was the didactness she was going for at that point, and Laplace's law was simply one of many possible topics for her to natter about.
4gwern8yThey're ponies; they know nothing about statistics. You say many have barely a gradeschool education, and this is a guard pony to boot. Any statistics will confuse them and be painfully didactic, but by making it simply unclear and assuming all sorts of stuff without justification, you waste a chance for the reader to actually understand the material and learn from it.
2FiftyTwo8yI'm really enjoying it so far. There are a few clunky bits but it doesn't detract too much. Perhaps if it becomes more popular you could rewrite the beginning and/or designate another chapter as a starting point?
1DataPacRat8yA few other authors in the same shared universe have started doing such rewrites. I'm leaving it open as an option for myself, for when I get to the point that I no longer want to try continuing my current chapter-a-day push.
0FiftyTwo8yWhy did you decide to write in a shared universe rather than a standalone fic?
3DataPacRat8yAfter reading the founding stories, which I greatly enjoyed, I noticed a few other people writing in the same setting - and I noticed that each one seemed to be trying to top the previous one about what sort of cool species to write about, and how many super-powers and magic weapons and such to give their characters. So I thought about writing about someone turned into a simple cow. One of the setting's first authors said 'sure', and I tried putting together a few chapters... then a few more... and I haven't found a reason to stop, yet. (Admittedly, my own protagonist has been collecting her own set of tricks and magical gizmos - eg, it turns out that cows are closely related to ponies in the setting's mythology, so I gave them the job of unknowingly taking the local point-sources of magical energy and spreading them out into an even magical field across the country, the way that the cartoon's pegasi even out the weather; but I've at least tried to make such tricks the result of actual research and investigation, including the occasional experiment that blows up in her face.)
3FiftyTwo8yI'm up to chapter 47 now and greatly enjoying it, (though it is distracting me from my work somewhat.). Couple of random thoughts: * Missy seems to be able to reconstruct quite a lot of technology entirely from memory, which stretches my suspension of disbelief somewhat. This may be a case of generalising from a single example but while I understand radios in theory I doubt I could build one (the amplifier idea is interesting though, nice to see a difference emerging in the physics of the world). I could probably build a very basic firearm with time and materials, but not the complex one Missy seems to have produced quickly. * I'm enjoying the musical interludes, the general theme of mid-century vocalists is nice, gives some thematic unity. * Missy as a character seems a little under-defined other than her rationalism. We don't really hear much about his life on earth and what background they have. Is that deliberate? Possibly some fleshing out of their past would make their rationalism and encyclopaedic knowledge of science more plausible. * The pony world seems a lot darker than in canon or most fan works. Gur vqrn bs cbal encr tnatf nccrnevat bhg bs abjurer hafrggyrq zr fbzrjung. Vagrerfgvat gung fbeg bs pnfhny betnavfrq ivbyrapr qvfgheorq zr zber guna svpf bs jne naq zheqre. Gur trareny nggvghqr bs gur aboyrf frrzf irel fvzvyne gb gubfr va UC:ZBE. Gubhtu gung frrzf snveyl pbafvfgrag jvgu gurz va pnaba. [http://www.rot13.com/index.php] * Having them as a cow is a really cool idea, not just in physical limitations but the situation of being transferred into the body of an oppressed minority makes for some interesting situations.
2DataPacRat8yYou're the second person to mention that I've managed to induce at least a minor case of JOMT [http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/JustOneMoreLevel], which I take as a high compliment. I probably over-did it with getting a firearm manufactured so quickly. I'd recently read a news article about some 3D printers now being capable of creating most parts of a firearm; I decided that Missy is more into the Maker subculture than I am, and not only looked into the mechanics of how an automatic pistol worked, but remembered enough about specific details to be able to put together plans for Royal-sponsored workshops to build from. The most implausible part about Missy's wireless device... is, actually, the earphones; unamplified crystal radios output a signal requiring earphones with a different resistance from standard ones. A minor spoiler for the chapter I plan on finishing writing today: Missy is about to try to grab a new revenue stream, independent of her previous sources of funding, by 'inventing' a whole series of easily-manufactured Earthly items... a set which is much more plausible to put together than even a radio. I've been discussing with some of the other authors about switching musical channels after chapter 60, going to They Might Be Giants, Jonathan Coulton, Weird Al, and their ilk. Haven't firmly decided one way or the other, yet. Now this... is both a good point, and something that I can try working on. I've been using the excuse that Missy has been trying to hide her Earthly origins entirely, to avoid going into that; but it's entirely possible I've been pushing too far with that. I'll see what I can come up with that helps the story. It is. Several other stories have pointed this out, and the conceit is that the cartoon we see has been framed to exclude any of the aspects of the setting which don't fit into its TV rating. Once one of the founding stories established in one of its first chapters that one of Equestria's neighboring countrie
1Baughn8yMaking firearms is not actually that easy. The 3D-printed one was actually just part of a firearm, and not the part that takes the highest stresses. Missy should, in practice, have had at least the following problems: * For a breech-loading firearm, you need high-grade steel of a particular and uniform formulation. Up until quite recently, humanity did not understand the chemistry of steel well enough to do that. Ponyland is unlikely to. The alternative, unfortunately, may be the firearm blowing up in your face. * Very particular chemistries are required for the propellant. Gunpowder is hard to set fire to, makes smoke, and doesn't provide much energy. The modern ideal of a propellant that explodes when hit hard, doesn't explode when hit even slightly lighter, doesn't explode if heated, doesn't explode under production, doesn't explode if you cool it down and doesn't randomly explode if you stare at it is.. actually pretty hard to manage. You also want it to not produce too much smoke. Guncotton is one of the better alternatives at your tech level, but it involves nitroglycerin.. 'nuff said. If you're interested in the details of recreating modern science, I suggest you look up the 1632 series; the writers have done a lot of careful research. For what it's worth, though, even doing a two-century jump (to late 1800s tech) is still a multi-year project when supplied with thousands of modern people, tens of thousands of down-timers, and a small modern city.
1OrphanWilde8yIt wasn't the part that takes the highest stresses, but it -is- the part which is identified as the firearm in the US - sort of like the motherboard isn't the component of the computer which takes the highest stresses (that would be the processor), but is the part which is recognized by an OS as the computer. Additionally, it takes little machining skill to finish the gun from that point out of supplies you can find in most hardware stores. (Much less assembling the rest of the gun out of unregulated parts.) Smokeless gunpowder is only desirable if you care about being spotted. Regular old gunpowder is easy to make (my chemistry lessons from my father - I was homeschooled for a substantial portion of my childhood - were very practical, and this is one of the things I learned to make.) and perfectly practical for just about every application you could want it for. Additionally, guncotton does not in fact require nitroglycerin; that's only one of the two types that can be produced. (It invariably requires large quantities of nitric and sulfuric acids, however. Nitric acid is harder to come by than the raw materials for gunpowder, especially in the quantities needed, which will generally attract law enforcement attention. It's not impossible to produce yourself, but difficult.)
1DataPacRat8yGiven that the firearm creation occurred some 50 chapters before what I'm writing now, and the result was successfully used for at least one plot-point, it would be a bit impractical to revise it just now. However, I can still keep these notes in case I do an eventual full rewrite; and these comments can be useful for filling in some as-yet-undescribed blank spots, such as helping to explain why none of the other game-pieces have managed to assemble their own modern firearms. In case it was buried where some LessWrongers here didn't read it, the point in the story that goes into the most detail about arranging for the creation of a firearm is in chapter 13, and reads: So, trying to take as a given that the single firearm was, in fact, successfully built, then the next time I write about it, I could try describing the additional difficulties currently being described, and how overcoming those difficulties was accomplished. For example, at that point in the story, the main character had access to the capital city's top engineers and technicians, as well as the local magically-enhanced forges and manufacturing techniques. So while the gun itself may be entirely non-magical in its operation, Equestria might not be able to manufacture it without applying magic during the metal-casting processes. (Or something of the sort.) In general, Equestrian technology is roughly in the 1850's-1870's range, with various exceptions (eg, sound systems, airships) that often turn out to have a magical base. Another background detail that is potentially useful for such not-quite-retconning is that the Princess to whom all this was being described has been shown to be able to collect information by appearing in other people's dreams. It's possible that she used this technique to help gather details that the protagonist didn't know she knew, to help fill out any blanks required for proper manufacturing.
0gwern8yBuilt-in userbase?
0Ritalin8yNo, don't. 502 not withstanding, that site is awesome.
-1Alex_Altair8yWest Wing?
0Manfred8ywww.google.com/search?q=define%3Ashibboleth
-1Alex_Altair8yhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=34OLtsjA9V4 [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=34OLtsjA9V4]

I just finished the fic up to where it is, and have lots to say. I will start with good things:

  • Made me giggle many times. I want an RSS feed and am annoyed that one doesn't seem to be available.

  • I like a number of your original characters and see no glaring flaws in your interpretations of the canons.

  • I applaud your choice of protagonist species and you do a nice job of making it a continuing handicap that the protagonist has to work around.

  • Your pacing is good in the sense that (with exceptions to be described below) I was not typically tempted to skim past any parts because of drag or mismanaged suspense.

I will carry on with critiques, noting that none of them stopped me from reading the entire thing and wanting more:

  • The musical interludes were cute once and annoying ever after. I stopped reading them. (If Missy were using them to study cartoon physics, instead of just to... occupy a couple screenfuls of text on each occasion by randomly singing sometimes... in a written medium... I would be much less annoyed, perhaps even charmed.) The chess games are even worse; perhaps that's only because I don't care about chess, but even so that limits the audience sharply for

... (read more)
2Armok_GoB8y@gender identity and pursuing relationship in cow form: Beware of the typical mind fallacy. Different people don't put the same importance on the same parts of their identity, and more specifically there is a fair bunch in the rationalist/transhuman cluster - me included - who regard sexual orientation, gender, and species as no more significant than eye colour or taste in icecream. This also seems to correlate pretty strongly with polegamy, which Missy also were ok enough with. @jugeling lots of stuff: thats my favorite part of it! Don't stop!
2DataPacRat8yAnd I thank you kindly for them. I can see that. I started using them in imitation of other Chessverse stories, but I may have started going overboard. I tried using as much banter and kibitzing during the games as I could, to try to keep the reader both interested and with a good idea of what was going on. I'm probably going to end up deciding it was a mostly-failed experiment, and not go into quite so much detail of a particular game in the future, unless there's an actual pressing plot-point depending on the actual details. Since the point where Star Chaser got an actual name, I'm trying to write her as 'trying to do the right thing' - which, at the moment, means she's working with problems that have somewhat higher priority than her gender. If Celestia happens to pass by, Star will be entirely willing to give her Missy's letter of recommendation and ask to be male again. I'm not aiming for this to be so much about the unimportance of gender, but of how important existential risks are compared to everything else. The fic is written from first-person perspective, from Missy's point of view. At the moment, she sees Star Chaser as female, so those are the pronouns she's using to refer to her. This has, in fact, been in my road map for a while - and I hit hard on this point, on almost a metafictional level, in the latest chapter. I hope it passes your muster for dealing with the whole issue in an interesting and entertaining way. This is something I hadn't even realized I was doing so much - thank you for bringing it to my attention. I'll try working on improving at this, though I may not always succeed as well as I should. I'm in regular communication with some of the major authors of the setting, in which various aspects of the worldbuilding are hammered out. Eg, if someone wants there to be a magical mineral with certain properties, I'll point out, "but if you mix it with this, then kaboom". A few hard limits have been placed - nobody's going to be building
0Ritalin8yRegarding the chess games, it would help if you added illustrative pictures. And, yes, by Jove, avoid the Chris Carter Effect. As for Missy, her tacked on romance and lack of emotion... you promised you'd explain that eventually, so I'll be waiting.
2DataPacRat8yI'm halfway through writing today's chapter - and I chuckled aloud when I read your critique points, as this chapter is addressing at least two and a half of them. I'll write a more thorough reply once I finish writing and posting it.

What is 'Chess Game of the Gods'? Your link mostly has rules on how to join, but doesn't quite explain what it is. I gather that it's some sort of collaborative storytelling project, but other than that I'm lost.

Specifically, what information should I gain by knowing your story is a MLP - "Chess Game of the Gods" fanfic instead of just being an MLP fanfic?

4DataPacRat8yThe group's page used to go into more description - my apologies for not double-checking that it still had it. The basic premise of this shared universe is that Discord, one of the cartoon's villains, took a human from Earth and dropped him in a non-human, non-pony body in Equestria. He then proposed a game to various multiversal deities that they do the same - and whichever piece was the last one standing, their sponsor would win the game and gain some measure of power, and the piece would be given a wish. Some pieces know some, all, or none of this; some of the godly players have various goals other than simply winning the game; and I'm pretty sure Canterlot is going to get blown up at some point in the future.
0Baughn8ySomehow, this reminds me a lot of Umineko. Well, that.. would work, yup. Pity I have no desire to work with the world.

Second impressions: more sex than I'd prefer. I'd call this a humanist (sapient-ist?) fic rather than a rationalist one - the difficulty of writing (what I'd call) rationalist fiction is that the audience can't just be told "and then Sherlock Holmes solved the mystery," Holmes has to actually go about it in a reasonable way.

2DataPacRat8yI can live with 'humanist' (or 'personist', or etc), though I really was trying to aim both for 'rationalist', and to describe how Missy actually went about doing things. As for sex - I tried to have a discreet fade-to-black for any actually adult content, while still having the protagonist in a relationship. How would you suggest, or have suggested, I manage that differently? (Or are you referring to something else?)

In chapter 67, I dislike how Missy uses previous knowledge of hieroglyphics. The point of a rationalist fanfic is Missy uses ideas that the audience can apply, rather than random obscure facts about dead languages.

3DataPacRat8yYou're not the only one to express that concern; so there's probably more than a grain of truth to it. I'd tried to establish that Missy knew random bits of obscure languages in chapter 54, "Vocabulary". I also have a full intention of describing the rationalist reason for Missy knowing such random trivia, exemplified by my very username, or as it was put in HPMoR's chapter 26, "one of the requisites for becoming a powerful wizard is an excellent memory. The key to a puzzle is often something you read twenty years ago in an old scroll, or a peculiar ring you saw on the finger of a man you met only once." I have chapter 68 mostly written out, chapter 69 mostly plotted out, and a roadmap of points I want to hit in the next few chapters. One of those points happens to be able to be used as an excuse to go into more detail about Missy's background, including why she knows some of the seemingly random things she does - so if I work it right, I should be able to provide a resolution for your criticism in chapter 70 or so. I hope that you find it both acceptable and enjoyable.

Have you guys heard of Fallout:Equestria?

8PhilGoetz8ySome interesting things about Fallout: Equestria (spoilers, kind of): * The reason for combining Fallout with My Little Pony was to show that it doesn't take terrible people to do terrible things. The point was to take the sweetest, most innocent creatures, and show how they could be changed, and end up murdering and raping each other, without it being anyone's fault. * One of the side-stories is that the main character gradually discovers the causes of the war. At various times, you place blame on Pinkie, on Fluttershy, on the zebras, and on others. Eventually you find out that it wasn't anypony's fault. Everybody acted as you would expect them to act, and it was mostly dumb bad luck that brought the apocalypse. There was no villain whose assassination would have prevented it; one character even attempts a royal assassination, which fails; and another character later points out that it wouldn't have made any difference had it succeeded. There were just a number of minor stupidities that snowballed. * In other fiction, the protagonist is in a situation that grows more and more desperate until the climax and resolution, when everything is resolved. In FoE, after the initial disasters on leaving the Stable, the heroine's status, love, power, friendships, and wealth gradually increase, making her more and more comfortable and providing more and more temptation to just stop and let somepony else worry about saving the world. At the story's climax (which is executed poorly, but the concept is brilliant), the last temptation is that the heroine's own goddess, whom she has looked to for the strength to continue on, confronts her and tells her to turn back because she has done enough and the ponies she is trying to save aren't worthy of her sacrifice. * The capacity for violence is necessary, but also very dangerous, and things can spin rapidly out of control - and not in a ham-hande
2Alicorn8yThis comment made me want to read it, but I can't find a way to do so that doesn't involve interacting with Google Docs, which I hate intensely. Rar.
8MixedNuts8yPDF [http://fc09.deviantart.net/fs71/f/2012/119/6/8/fallout_equestria_ereader___official_by_jlryan-d4xz4ta.pdf] (6.5MB), ePub [http://dl.dropbox.com/u/34977901/Fics%20stuff%20-%20DONOTDELETE/Fallout%20Equestria/Fallout_%20Equestria%20-%20Kkat.epub] (1.7MB)
1devas8yThank you so much, you may not believe it but you have just made my day
1Alicorn8yThanks!
5Vaniver8yI have read all of the original. It is a very well written work, but as befits Fallout, it is grimdark. There were many parts which seemed like they wouldn't have been nearly as enjoyable without strong familiarity with the Fallout universe. They cross it with MLP very well- some of the combinations are eh, but several of them make perfect sense, and are very tragic. I'm not quite sure I would describe it as "rationalist"- the protagonist is clever, the enemies are often clever, and there's a little bit in the way of plotting and puzzle solving. It seems much more like a standard post-apocalyptic adventure than rationalist fiction, but I'm not quite sure where I would draw the line around rationalist fiction.

Rationalist fiction: There's explicit epistemic or instrumental methods which you see the characters using, described in sufficient detail to convey the general principle as well as the particular case, which you are meant to pick up and use in real life.

1PhilGoetz8yWhat word would you use to describe fiction that presents the world realistically, spurning the comfortable lies that make up most popular fiction, yet without any of the characters necessarily being rationalists? That's the kind of fiction I'm more interested in. What's interesting about Fallout: Equestria is that it sometimes does that, even if by accident. That's what's interesting about fan-fiction: You're allowed to write truthfully about the world, in a way that a professional editor probably wouldn't let you. Fallout: Equestria struck me as philosophically deep compared to books you can buy in the bookstore. But I don't think that was due to careful thought by the author, because it was too inconsistent and incompletely worked-out. I think that the books in the bookstore have had any accidental wisdom systematically edited out, especially adventure, fantasy, and romance. SPOILER For instance, it's not as interesting that Red Eyes is a rationalist and a consequentialist (he is more of a straw vulcan), as that the hero who has set out to destroy Red Eyes' evil organization ends up having to defend it because it's so damn useful, and then allying with it to maintain the balance of power.
1DataPacRat8yThat's exactly what I'm trying for. Whether I'm succeeding at it - well, that's what I wrote the post here to try to find out.
1gwern8yI'm interested on the strength of Goetz's comments, but when I searched, I encountered an endless maze of twisty links each alike. (I was hopeful when I ran into a PDF link - and it turned out to be broken.) EDIT: Finished reading the PDF [http://fc09.deviantart.net/fs71/f/2012/119/6/8/fallout_equestria_ereader___official_by_jlryan-d4xz4ta.pdf] ; excellent.
1DataPacRat8yI've heard of it, at least; but I haven't read any of it, yet.
0MatthewBaker8yWell its supposed to be quite rationalist and quite awesome. Im only about 12-15 chapters in and my brothers Fallout :equestria boardgame already fascinates me

I started reading this fic, and... we need to talk.

In chapter 2, the protagonist tries to think through the practical implications of being female. The result is one of the worst examples I've seen of male nerd cluelessness about women, to the point that I would have sooner expected to see it as a satire than as a real example.

Lest anyone who hasn't read the fic think I'm exaggerating, the offending paragraph runs as follows:

I waved [my tail] back and forth again, and as it brushed against my hind end... I might as well face up to another aspect of my ch

... (read more)

Oh, come now; if I suddenly acquired new sex-related complications on the order of being able to get pregnant, and I was also a new species, I'd probably want to avoid that for at least a while. The character doesn't know about what birth control may or may not be available, what STDs may or may not be rampant, what pregnancy and childbirth are like for cows, or what the sexual mores of the society she's in might be! And also has much more on her mind than figuring out how to get laid, let alone with species she's never considered fornicating with - and the pregnancy one would be from sex with a gender she's never been attracted to. "Yep, probably better not have any sex" is a perfectly reasonable reaction.

4Pavitra8yThat is a valid line of reasoning that arrives at the same conclusion, but it's not the reasoning put forth in the fic.
3Alicorn8yThe sex change alone does suffice, and the line of reasoning used in the fic would make no sense if the character's sex were not new.
0Ritalin8yNot that she manages to hold on to it. I swear, there seems to be a rule that Human In Equestria fics end up involving sex with a native one way or another. Maybe it's a way for the human characters to become symbolically "married" to the nigh-utopian setting?
3DataPacRat8yAh, I knew I'd read the inspiration for that part of the scene from somewhere, but had forgotten exactly where. Yep, that seems to be where I got the idea from.

Question about a line in your story:

I even tried paying attention to the gossip; seemed I'd missed the big story of the day while I was out in the forest, some passing griffon had made Pinkie break a Pinkie Promise, been raped by Rainbow Dash, and stolen a library book. I decided that gossip that obviously ridiculous was quite worth ignoring, and went to sleep.

I assume that's a reference to this story? I'm kind of curious to know the context, but the other story seems kind of long.

3DataPacRat8yIndeed it is. That story is, in fact, one of the two founding stories for the entire shared universe, the other one being this one [https://www.fimfiction.net/story/10394/The-Ballad-of-Echo-the-Diamond-Dog].
3listic8yHow is that offhanded mention of rape justified in the story?
2DataPacRat8yIt's a reference to events in one of the shared universe's founding stories, specifically where Griffin the Griffin meets Rainbow Dash in this chapter [http://www.fimfiction.net/story/12350/8/Griffin-the-Griffin/New-In-Town-%288%29] .
1gwern8yI took it as metaphorical rather than literal, since I couldn't imagine how Rainbow Dash would actually rape a larger creature; presumably she defeated it badly in some kind of aerial combat or race.
3CronoDAS8yThe established character of Rainbow Dash notwithstanding, it's certainly physically possible. For example, it could happen if the larger creature consumed a significant quantity of alcohol or other drugs and was therefore incapacitated. Blackmail or other some other kind of threat could also work. Not wanting to hurt her could also make it harder to fight back. Or it could simply have been Not What It Looks Like [http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/NotWhatItLooksLike].
0Ritalin8yNah, Raibow Dash just tackles Griffin and pins him to the ground in such a way that their genitalia are in tight contact, which, given that they're both, well, naked, is very awkward. Griffin is however committing hyperbole by calling it "rape". The rest of the Noodle Incident is quite true, and made for a Broken Pedestal on his side (he was disappointed that Pinkie broke her promise to laugh at him, and that RD would initiate violence over insufficient information) and a terrible impression on theirs (he acted like a jerk throughout the episode; man's got issues).

Vaniver is going to be so mad when he sees this.

3Vaniver8yThere are now three people that I'm aware of writing one (counting me). Competition leads to higher quality!
4knb8yI don't understand why so many people are writing My Little Pony fan fictions here. Does the show have some content that appeals to lesswrong-type rationalists? Isn't it targeted toward little kids? This just seems bizarre.

I write MLP fan-fiction under the name Bad Horse. I'll skip the reasons why I write fan-fiction. There are a few reasons I chose to write ponyfiction as opposed to other types:

  • There are only a few large, active fandoms: Harry Potter, Twilight, Avatar, Naruto, and My Little Pony.
  • The ponyfiction websites are much better-designed than those for the other fandoms. There are no fanfic websites for any other fandom that have a ratings system, so it's too much work to find anything good to read. And I didn't want to just write and not be a member of the community. Even if I were arrogant enough to do that, it wouldn't work very well even from a completely Slytherin viewpoint. This is the most-important factor.
  • You can write anything as ponyfic. If you want to write a story about an old woman whose children have left and who has refocused her attention on her flower garden, and a travelling salesman who figures this out and manipulates her love of flowers to sell her something, and you wanted to do it as a Harry Potter fanfic, you'd have to make her use spells to grow her garden, or something stupid like that. I can't even imagine how you'd do that as a Twilight or Naruto fanfic. But anything becomes a ponyfic when you make the characters ponies. This is probably why I like My Little Pony. Harry Potter is about the wizarding world. Avatar is about a world war. MLP is about people.
1CannibalSmith8yMind blown, then blown again.
9Vaniver8yThe short version: the show is good and sincere (but trying it in the first place requires high openness), a large subset of LW's current readers are into fanfiction, and the brony community in general creates lots of fan materials. The 4th generation of the show started 2 years ago, and is very well-made, is happy, and less targeted at little girls than the previous versions. Generally, boys shows got more talent and funding because network execs knew that both boys and girls would watch boy shows but only girls would watch girl shows- which was, in part, a self-fulfilling prophecy. Why watch technically inferior shows? (Most male fans of the current generation find the design of previous generations hideous; I don't know how the female fans feel about it.) The show still has a definite feminine feel- the protagonists are all female, and the majority of the episodes center around personal interactions and friendship problems- but there are also "save the world" adventure episodes, and a strong diversity among the characters in terms of both skill and personality. The personalities are iconic and basic enough that most fans identify strongly with at least one of the characters. I only gave the show a try, though, when I needed to watch television and had watched every other show on Netflix made in the last five years that I expected to enjoy. (I was only recommended it once or twice.) Hearing that a show for little girls is actually good and giving that hypothesis enough credence to watch the show seems like something that requires high openness- which is a trait I suspect is associated with being an LWer. (When much of your social circle approves of it, the amount of openness required is obviously lower.) One of the things about the show that's polarizing is that it's very sincere. Ponies are, in general, happy and like each other. Compare to, say, Watchmen or The Wire. One way to show sophistication in modern society is by appreciation of irony, but LWers strke
1Ritalin8yApplause Lights warning; the phrase is true, just not very meaningful.
2Vaniver8yWould you prefer "free enterprise is a method of organizing society that leads to more wealth across the whole of society than its competitors by allowing individuals to create more wealth than would otherwise be possible"?
1Ritalin8yThat's much more meaningful, but, conversely, it's truth is largely dependent on what one means by "free enterprise", "wealth creation", and how one goes about measuring "wealth".
5DataPacRat8yThere is an entire subculture called 'bronies' of adult fans of the show. My best guess is that the demographics of LessWrong readers come closer than average to the demographics of bronies, and so there is a higher-than-average chance of a LessWronger being willing to be a brony. As for why the show is popular among adults; the best theory I've heard is that unlike many modern cartoons, it's unashamedly non-cynical, and is actually reasonably-decently written and produced, which makes it near-unique at the moment.
3[anonymous]8yI was (at one point) working on an anti-death MLP fic after having read through the admittedly very well-written fic "Eternal", but I got distracted by job hunting and other such trivial things. Maybe once I'm settled I can begin again? Oh, and I am going to read any and all MLP rationalist fanfics that I can find.
3ModusPonies8yFunny you should say that. I'm currently about a third of the way through writing an anti-death fic written as a reaction to Eternal and some similar stories. Let me know when I can read yours; I'm quite curious to see how you approached it.
2PhilGoetz8yFunny you should say funny you should say that. Eternal is one of the few ponyfics that EDIT is anti-death, in that there's a point where Celestia reflects on how people have speculated that it must torture her to see everyone she knows die, but she still enjoys living, thank you very much. I've got my own mostly-anti-death ponyfic, in second round at EqD, but you can see it here [http://www.fimfiction.net/story/43996/Mortality-Report]. I don't know if EqD will ever approve it, as it's inherently thinky, but I did get a revision request, so I'll keep my fingers crossed. ADDED: On further reflection, my story isn't about being anti-death. That's just a plot point.
5gwern8yMLP fanfiction is generally anti-death? I'm surprised. If that's true, that's quite interesting. MLP is a half-plausible utopia which unlike many utopias seems like it would be an upgrade over the real world (I'm surprised Eliezer hasn't done a post analyzing MLP from his Fun Theory perspective yet EDIT: see Friendship is Optimal [http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/lw/efi/friendship_is_optimal_a_my_little_pony_fanfic/] ); do such half-plausible utopias defeat the usual deathist memes? If so, that seems like evidence for the basic thesis of http://lesswrong.com/lw/6vq/on_the_unpopularity_of_cryonics_life_sucks_but_at/ [http://lesswrong.com/lw/6vq/on_the_unpopularity_of_cryonics_life_sucks_but_at/] - people don't care much about life extension like cryonics (and hence, any anti-deathist arguments) because their lives are not that great. I wonder how one would investigate this... there aren't many quasi-utopias available with large fanfic communities. There's probably a correlation between pessimism-optimism and deathism; are MLP fans both more optimistic and anti-death or more interestingly, are they pessimistic but anti-death when MLP primed? (The most obvious comparison, the Harry Potter-verse, is both explicitly pro-death and also too contemporary and flawed a world to really work.)
3PhilGoetz8yNo, MLP fanfic talks often about "the curse of immortality." I typoed. I will fix it.
4gwern8yOh. Well, +1 for me for being surprised by a falsity, I guess. Although I wish it had been true since it's more interesting than the truth and could've been interesting (a silver bullet for deathism? Sign me up!).
5PhilGoetz8yMLP is pro-death only in one way: There are two characters who are immortal, and people feel sorry for them because everyone they know keeps dying. The show doesn't talk about this, but the fanfiction does, and refers to the curse of immortality in this context.
0Ritalin8yCAUSE HERE WE ARE, WE'RE THE PRINCESSES OF THE UNIVERSE! WE HAVE NO RIVALS! NO MARE CAN BE OUR EQUAL!
1ModusPonies8yOh, I remember that one. It was setting off my LW sense even before you got to the bit with the dragon. I'll try to take a look at the second version later tonight, unless the original reviewer or someone else does it first. Can you link me some of those anti-death stories you're thinking of? I've seen quite a few about ponies coping with death, but aside from yours, I don't know of any that engage with the idea of overcoming death as a whole. I'd be interested to see what people have written on the subject.
0PhilGoetz8ySorry; did not see this reply until now. That was a typo; I meant pro-death stories.
3DataPacRat8yI seem to be unable to find your story; may I ask if it's been posted for reading anywhere?
2Vaniver8yIt hasn't been posted yet, but I am looking for alpha readers at the moment. Send me a PM if you're interested. I don't work at anywhere near 2k words a day (well, on this at least- I have other nonfiction writing projects going on), and so I don't expect it'll be as long as yours or update as frequently.
2gwern8yBut on the other hand, it might lead to crippling anxiety, constant comparison, attempts at one-upmanship which jump the shark, fear, and self-loathing. Can you really take that chance?
3Vaniver8yI'm made of sterner stuff than that! And if they're not, well, sucks to be them :P So far, the premise of mine and the premise of DataPacRat's seem very different, and so it's not clear how rivalrous comparisons will be. (I've only read the first chapter of theirs so far.)
3HBDfan8yI look forward to your work!
2Raemon8yOh this makes so much more sense. Could have sworn I had seen more than one person talking about MLP rationalist fanfic (or more accurately, when Vaniver was talking about their fic, I specifically thought I recalled "some name that wasn't Vaniver" having talked about it before).
2Vaniver8yiceman also mentioned writing one in their intro post [http://lesswrong.com/lw/8tw/what_are_you_working_on_december_2011/5g5l].
1ArisKatsaris8yOnce in the previous year I also mentioned that I had an idea about rationalist MLP too -- but I've not worked on it any, and the way I'm going I currently doubt I'll ever work on it.

OMGOSH love this thing! I'm in full fanboy mode right now. You, DataPackRat, am amazing and I feel like I've just been dunked in a certain pool and you were the first thing I saw. spiralspiralspiral :D

Really, everyone else who feel this way, because as amazing as this story is there are presumably loads: stop being afraid of karma and help me reward this amazing outor with extremely well deserved esteem boosts, so that others may be inspired to do similar glorious deeds in the future! Remember http://lesswrong.com/lw/3h/why_our_kind_cant_cooperate/ !

3PhilGoetz8yWhy are people downvoting Armok_GoB's comment?
8Armok_GoB8yBecause I'm wearing a clown suit.

This looks like a good occasion to ask: how reliable is fimfiction.net rating system?

I have cautiously read a couple of top-rated stories on fimfiction.net and found them really good. But I know there are nastier ones out there, and those I would like to avoid.

Am I safe just by not clicking the prominent "View Mature" checkbox? But should't the story automatically fit into "Mature" if it's labeled Dark or Tragedy?

I know of the Internet Rule 43: "The more beautiful and pure a thing is, the more satisfying it is to corrupt". Bu... (read more)

3PhilGoetz8yIt's curated. Every story is checked by a mod before being posted. Personally, I don't like this: I would rather authors had freedom to post anything they wanted, and run the "risk" of offending people or exposing people to things they didn't want to see every now and then. Hell, in my book, that's a feature, not a bug. AAUGH! No! "Mature" is supposed to mean explicit sex or violence. This is funny when you think about it. Amit (a clever fellow) wrote a postmodernist meta-textual story and said it was "mature", to make the point that "mature" should mean something like "a story intended for mature people" rather than "a story intended for fifteen-year-old boys". On the other end of the scale, my own story "Twilight Sparkle and the Quest for Anatomical Accuracy" [https://www.fimfiction.net/story/22507], easily the most immature story I've ever written, was re-rated by a mod as "Mature". "Dark" is any story that suggests that the world is not inherently friendly to you. "Black Robe" is dark, not because it has sex and violence, but because the priest tries so hard to do the moral thing and causes destruction to those who listen. There is a Russian short story called "How does it feel to be free?" that is very dark, that is just about a man released from years of being unjustly imprisoned, who finds he wants nothing but to go back to prison because he can't handle freedom anymore. "The Trial" by Kafka is dark. My "Game of Immortals" [https://www.fimfiction.net/story/20902/8/Pony-Tales/Game-of-Immortals-%28Celestia%2C-Discord%29] is dark comedy. If we admit any story that claims the universe is dispassionate, then all of Eliezer's writings are dark. Someday, when humanity is wiser and stories do not by default assume that the universe is friendly, the category "dark" may shrink to mean only those stories claiming the universe is malevolent, such as the writings of Lovecraft. "Tragedy" is a story in which some character... aw, heck, just google it. It doesn't requir
1listic8yI think we can agree on that. It's just that extrapolating into some of the worlds troubles me. As far as I can understand, curation and rating systems should exist to give reader the freedom to read what they want to read (and avoid what they want to avoid), not take away any freedom. I would prefer they include everything, just label it appropriately; and that's what curation should be good for: to make sure everything is labelled consistently whether or not every individual author does so. Now that I think about it, I notice (yet again) that I hardly know a thing about state of censorship and ratings (is it how they call this "rated M for mature content"). I wonder, what is the general consensus on all of that and how it evolved over time? I already thought of maybe finding a book on it, or something, but it looked like stupid way to spend time so I didn't. Individual articles like [url=en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hays_Code]Hays Code[/url] don't give the full picture.
3DataPacRat8yAt FimFiction, when an author labels a story 'mature', they have the option of selecting from one of two sub-categories: sex and gore. A story can be Dark or Tragic without those elements, and it's at least plausible that even a story with gore might not be Tragic, and might even be a comedy, ala Shaun of the Dead. So, avoiding the Mature checkbox will certainly help you avoid such stories - but there are some edge cases which might slip through. Another list of high-rated stories is Equestria Daily's Star 6 [http://www.equestriadaily.com/search/label/Star-6] ones. I don't recall any that made it to that ranking that include content that's erotic, though some are somewhat dark, such as "Background Pony"'s horror aspects.
1PhilGoetz8yEquestria Daily is a reliable source of pretty-good pony stories. But they don't like risk. For an idea of what kind of stories you're likely to find there, go look at the pony art on deviantart, and then look at the tiny subclass of it, stylistically, that ever appears on Equestria Daily. They posted Fallout: Equestria, and some other risky stories. But they have their own idea of what ponydom should be, and the pre-readers speak in their correspondence as if they had the authority to speak for EqD and for other pre-readers, so I presume they talk with each other behind the scenes about what ponyfiction should be. At least one of the pre-readers on EqD is also a mod on fim-fiction, and you can see from the groups and blogs that pre-readers talk largely to other pre-readers. The ponyfic world is still cliquish.
0Document8ySome stories with sex content or humor on EqD: * The Night Fluttershy Exploded [http://www.equestriadaily.com/2011/02/story-night-fluttershy-exploded.html] * Hey, Where's the Cream Filling [http://www.equestriadaily.com/2011/02/story-hey-wheres-cream-filling.html] * Snails' Big Problem [http://www.equestriadaily.com/2011/12/story-snails-big-problem_13.html] * Luna VS Threesome [http://www.equestriadaily.com/2011/05/story-progress-luna-versus-microwave.html]

I'm kinda surprised you didn't get thumb-bombed by LWers, just because LWers have such a different thumb culture than fimfiction. On fimfiction, there are 10 thumbs-up for every thumbs-down.

2Pavitra8yThe votable texts on Fimfiction are generally much longer, so one is less likely to pay attention to a thing unless one already expects it to be worth reading.

I laughed at the part where Missy summons a rainstorm by Tempting Fate. (Although one of the laws of Tempting Fate is that you can never actually benefit by doing it.)

And she didn't even try "I am invincible!"

4DataPacRat8yWell - she only wanted to prove a point about local physics, not make absolutely sure of her own destruction.
2CronoDAS8yAnd... I just finished the chapter. Yeah, tempting fate never works out for the better.