This is a new thread to discuss Eliezer Yudkowsky’s Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality and anything related to it. This thread is intended for discussing chapter 87The previous thread has passed 500 comments. 

There is now a site dedicated to the story at hpmor.com, which is now the place to go to find the authors notes and all sorts of other goodies. AdeleneDawner has kept an archive of Author’s Notes. (This goes up to the notes for chapter 76, and is now not updating. The authors notes from chapter 77 onwards are on hpmor.com.) 

The first 5 discussion threads are on the main page under the harry_potter tag.  Threads 6 and on (including this one) are in the discussion section using its separate tag system.  Also: 12345678910111213141516, 17.

Spoiler Warning: this thread is full of spoilers. With few exceptions, spoilers for MOR and canon are fair game to post, without warning or rot13. More specifically:

You do not need to rot13 anything about HP:MoR or the original Harry Potter series unless you are posting insider information from Eliezer Yudkowsky which is not supposed to be publicly available (which includes public statements by Eliezer that have been retracted).

If there is evidence for X in MOR and/or canon then it’s fine to post about X without rot13, even if you also have heard privately from Eliezer that X is true. But you should not post that “Eliezer said X is true” unless you use rot13.

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An edited paste of a conversation I had with a friend

Alicorn: I'm increasingly disappointed with Hermione's character. Eliezer has never been great with female characters, and he's trying so hard with her, but he's made her so silly, so pathetically, appallingly silly. She's not stupid, she's not evil, but she's more a child than anyone else who gets character development and she is such a silly girl. I don't mean, like, she has a sense of humor, which is the other meaning of the word "silly". She is not Pinkie Pie, she's just a ninny.

Alphabeta: To be fair, all the other people her age with that much development are fucking crazy.

Alicorn: All the girls in their year are silly, though, I don't think this is just Hermione's personal character flaw that she has to have because she got developed a certain amount. It's more irritating in her, because we see more of her and it's contrasting against higher intelligence, but all the girls are silly.

Alphabeta: That sounds like something Eliezer needs to hear

Alicorn: yeah, I'm considering pasting this conversation in the LW discussion thread

Alphabeta: Also, in fairness, most of the boys are silly, and McGonagall is very good at... (read more)

Honestly, Hermione seems the least unbelievable of the major child characters. Harry is just a freak of nature - I was a gigantic multi-sigma outlier nerd at that age, and I couldn't have held a candle to Harry. There is no way any 11 year old has read and understood the entire corpus of quantum mechanics, cognitive science, science fiction, and rationalism writings, no matter how much of a bibliophile they are. Draco is less unreasonable, but he still carries himself like someone much older than 11. Hermione, on the other hand, is basically just a smart girl with a good memory, who's struggling to keep up with a force of nature and fighting with the evil chancellor's kid.

Ultimately, 11-year-old girls are supposed to be silly sometimes. Hermione still manages to be more serious than most of the actual people that age I know. I think our expectations are just skewed by the university-aged kids in middle school.

I agree with you. Hermione is a more believable child than the others. However, the way in which she achieves that is not because she is better written (she's not), but because she has different flaws, which Eliezer assigns to characters of her age and gender with overwhelming regularity, in a context of generally handling female characters clumsily.

7Eliezer Yudkowsky
Harry isn't being a silly boy in Ch. 87?

Only if 27-year-old Luke was being a silly boy when he broke up with someone by 20-page essay with ev-psych primer. (BTW, did you intend the reference?) Stupid, but not childish.

I said to Luke when I read that, "You know, Luke, it hasn't happened yet in the story, but I'd already planned out, before I read your post, that when I want to have Harry screw up a conversation with Hermione as badly as possible, I'm going to have him start talking about evolutionary psychology. You literally did that in the way I'd imagined as the worst way possible." (Though the actual chapter didn't come out quite that way when I wrote it - there isn't anything about evolutionary psychology until the very end.)

So I thought of this as a stereotypically male-stupid thing to do, and independently Luke, who happens to be male, went and did it. Can you name a woman who's done the same?

I didn't read Harry's statements as stereotypically male-child-stupid or even stereotypically male-stupid, but stereotypically hyperintellectualist-male-stupid - as in specifically similar to behavior like Luke's, not that of any non-Internet non-rationalist man I've actually met. A male child of ordinary intellectual background, no matter how stupid, could not have made the specific mistakes Harry made here, because he drew his deemed-inappropriate ideas from "enlightened" papers.

A good example of stereotypically male-child-stupid is Ron's lines you quote here (and many of Ron's actions in general). These are stupid comments Ron was able to make in spite of not having read any papers.

Hermione's reactions are stereotypically female-child-stupid. She reacted the way she did precisely because of not reading these particular enlightened papers. This is the exact opposite of Harry's stupidity! I think I understand why you wrote the scene with these results - Harry has read lots of rationalist papers you think more people should read, while Hermione in spite of her intelligence does not have the exact same background. However, because Hermione's actions fit with "stupid f... (read more)

...do note that Hermione at one point reacts in a genre-savvy fashion by saying that it's fine for Harry to have a dark side.

Please keep in mind that a lot of this apparent problem is generated by the unalterable fact that Harry, who has Stuff Going On and has been through hell as the title character and has to grow fast enough to be competitive with people like Dumbledore and Professor Quirrell (all genders chosen by Rowling) happens to be male, whereas Hermione, who like many other characters is going to have difficulty competing with Harry at this point in the story, happens to be female. I mean, suppose Rowling had made her professionally paranoid Auror a woman. It's not unthinkable that someone might complain about how Harry, a male, managed to land a stun on Madam Moody. Symmetrically, if Draco had discovered Harry doing science with Hermione some chapters earlier, he wouldn't have had the same reaction but he would've had an equally difficult reaction for Harry to deal with, and yes I would've figured out some way to make the adultery joke there too.

The main lesson I'm learning is that there are potential Problems when you arrange the plot so that you have the main charac... (read more)

7MugaSofer
Clearly, this line is the only important part of this comment. Let the games begin! (Tonks would be the obvious guess, since there's long been speculation about gender-bending metamorphamagi. But she's presented as female in canon, and Eliezer would probably object to the notion that the mere ability to change body shape would count as changing sex.)
4NihilCredo
Hmm, he didn't say "she's not going to appear until later", he said "that's not going to be apparent until later". This suggests that the character has already appeared, doesn't it? (I might have guessed that the androgynous Voldemort could have been a female character in this fic, but I believe Eliezer has already flat-out stated that he's sticking to Quirrell = Voldemort.)
-1MugaSofer
Ooh, well caught. Hmm, Tonks has already appeared...
2Eneasz
I'm going with Penelope Clearwater. The competent, sober, older-Ravenclaw-prefect role could have been just about anyone (thus fulfilling the "important character who's gender I could choose" requirement), but Penelope was chosen (thus the "make her female" requirement). She hasn't done anything outstanding yet, thus the "apparent until later". I've had strong suspicions for a while that both Penelope and Goyle will have awesome roles to play in the future.
1MugaSofer
Isn't Penelope the only older Ravenclaw we're shown in canon?
0ahartell
Is that why you chose her specifically to be voiced by Zoe Chace?
2Eneasz
Hm... not consciously. I just felt like she'd be a good match, and wouldn't take too much time.
2NancyLebovitz
I have no idea what Eliezer would think on the subject. My feeling is that if a metamorphamagus is changing the body, then this means changing the hormones-- they're a member of the sex they appear to be in every way with the possible exception of childhood memories. (I don't remember at what age the ability to metamorphize kicks in.) I could argue that that they're "really" a gender we don't have a word for.
0MugaSofer
Allow me to enlighten you. Well, that depends on how said hormones are affecting brain development during childhood and in the womb - and I don't recall hearing tales of transsexuals taking such hormones having, say, their sexual orientation affected. (I haven't researched this.) On the other hand, there's mention in canon of a baby changing their hair color, which would indicate that it doesn't "kick in" at a specific point in time. I'm not sure what this means for the gender-changing-Tonks hypothesis; is there any research into children with irregular levels of sex hormones, or who started taking hormones in childhood? Androgynous? Hermaphrodite? Genderqueer? Those are words, and while their meanings are ... fluid ... they could all probably be applied to such an individual. Ultimately, we can never be entirely certain one way or the other without Word of God; magic can cover a multitude of sins. Unless his opinions have changed since he wrote that article, however, I'm guessing the most she could achieve would be an inferior "penis-shaped vagina", perhaps with looks based on a specific individual for realism. If her powers actually bother dealing with hormone levels and such, it's presumably dealt with automatically, so it could simply refuse to mess with sex hormones beyond certain limits. She carried a baby to term in canon, and there was certainly no mention of having to avoid certain transformations. Not that there would be, necessarily.
7pedanterrific
Ooh, a guessing game. I'll go with... the Giant Squid.
5Alsadius
No, it's clearly Mrs. Barbara Dementor.
4daenerys
Fawkes
6undermind
Mrs. Hat-and-Cloak
2Spurlock
Hat & Cloak turning out to be McGonagall would be the most mind-bending and awesome plot twist ever. Unfortunately Hat & Cloak isn't a canon character (right? I didn't read the books), so this wouldn't fit EY's hint.
2NihilCredo
Fawkes is male in HPMOR. e: unless the "that's not going to be apparent until later" means that he will be revealed to have actually been female all along later on.
1Manfred
I would guess that phoenixes are hermaphroditic. Or maybe they're spontaneously generated?
0keen
True conflict strengthens narrative. But then, you're not really complaining about creating problems for your characters.
4A1987dM
If I had to imagine a male doing that with a straight face in Real Life, it would likely be a right-wing dick talking through his ass who likes evolutionary psychology because it supports his position rather than because he actually has a good understanding of it (Exhibit A). OTOH, I can imagine hyperintellectualist males doing that tongue-in-cheek, and occasionally the joke would fall flat unless his interlocutor was hyperintellectualist herself.
2A1987dM
Real or fictional? If the latter, Amy Farrah Fowler from The Big Bang Theory does similar stuff.

Harry was fumbling. He was not silly. He expressed reasonable propositions in clumsy ways. Hermione was silly throughout.

Maybe it matters that the girls in MOR are silly even when they aren't under pressure.

Most students in HPMOR are silly when not under pressure (witch counterexample: Penelope Clearwater). They're also named after fan artists with upcoming cameos. Who tend to be female.

And yes, there's a Gossipy Hens trope in HPMOR, the converse of which is the horrible dating advice dispensed by males with their parody PUA community, both of whom are there because someone has to horribly misinterpret the situation, and which are gender-correlated because... well, because that part is realistic and there are things in HPMOR that happen because that's what the prior causal forces output, not necessarily because that's how I freely decided the outcome should be.

2NancyLebovitz
This is making me realize that these discussions tend to not have a sense of scale. I'm not crazy about the undifferentiated gossiping mass (and it's reached the point where I'm not having as much fun with it-- it was funny the first time or three), but I don't think it's a huge flaw. It's entertaining to see the gossip get more rationalist, but not in a way that seems to help it be more accurate. I hadn't noticed there was a parody PUA community, it just seemed as though there was occasional bits of PUA stuff showing up now and then. Definitely time to reread.
7Eliezer Yudkowsky
By the standards of our community, yes, you're never supposed to flee in tears, and Harry has right-of-way to express any ideas he wants. Hermione has not been raised with this ideal, and Harry has not yet pressed it on her. And canon!Hermione in her fifth-year, who delivered Umbridge unto the centaurs, wouldn't have fled in tears; and Harry could have told her about Draco much earlier, confident that 5th-year!Hermione could put on a mask around Draco and keep it up. This is first-year!canon!Hermione:

Yes, and? The canon scene is Hermione "crying and wanting to be left alone". That is not particularly silly - it's emotional, but not even all that childish; depressed or particularly put-upon adults cry and want to be left alone. You, by contrast, have Hermione hysterically, italicizedly telling Harry that he cannot do science with two people at once, and doubling down on it even after she has a chance to realize that this is preposterous.

Erm... a basic law of MoR is that people gain maturity/competence in proportion to how much hell they've been through. This creates a power balance problem where Harry, as main character, has been to Azkaban and Hermione hasn't, and fighting bullies isn't quite enough to make up for that. However, I would indeed maintain as a literary matter that this Hermione has been through more hell than the quoted canon!Hermione and is visibly more powerful and competent. Methods!Hermione doesn't flee in tears if Ron calls her a nightmare, though she would've at the start of the year. She probably wouldn't even notice.

Erm... a basic law of MoR is that people gain maturity/competence in proportion to how much hell they've been through.

For an otherwise rational fanfic this seems oddly like a rule out of Dungeons and Dragons.

Edit:Also, it seems like at this point Hermione has gone through some pretty awful stuff also so by this logic her competence level should have gone up a lot.

5Alsadius
"Whatever does not kill you makes you stronger" is D+D-esque now? Experience makes people better, as a rule, as long as you can avoid being broken by it. Also, Hermione's competence level has gone up a lot. You don't think she's a lot stronger than she was at the beginning of the story?
1Eliezer Yudkowsky
She didn't get a chance to fight during that - it doesn't work quite the same way.
1JoshuaZ
Yeah, that makes this if anything sound even more like D&D. Where is the motivation for this rule coming from? Is there any evidence humans actually act this way at all? The only related evidence I'm aware of goes in the other direction: Traumatized children are more likely to have behaviorial problems and lower IQ after the fact. Citation. (Thought that just popped into my head, could reduced levels of corporal punishment and generally more stable lives be a contributing factor to the Flynn effect?).

It did work out that way in my own life.

There's a Dilbert cartoon in which Dilbert thinks he's really just been faking it since sixth grade.

At age 17 I went through a bit of hell bad enough that I don't particularly want to talk about it, and three weeks later woke up one morning and realized that I would never feel like that Dilbert cartoon again. Literally, just woke up in the morning. It wasn't the result of any epiphany, it seemed more like something biological my brain just did in response. My main reaction was, "Why couldn't my brain have done this three weeks earlier when it would've #$&%ing helped?"

Not sure how that squares with the research, and I couldn't point to anywhere in my life where it happened except that one point.

However, the actual literary logic is something more like, "Once you show Harry thinking his way out of Azkaban, it is no longer possible for him to lose an even battle to Draco - the reader won't believe it." I don't think the 'power up through trial' thing is actually unrealistic, I mean, if I come out of this planet alive I'm probably not going to be fazed by much after that. But it's the more fundamental literary reason ... (read more)

Even so, imagine Methods!Granger fleeing to the bathroom after just hearing Ron call her a nightmare. That could've happened in Ch. 9, maybe, but by this point Granger has been fighting older bullies successfully and you'd be, like, "Yeah right."

Wait wait wait. Just hearing Ron call her a nightmare? That's not at all why Hermione is crying! Hermione is crying because:

  1. She's a muggleborn.
  2. She has no friends.
  3. Everyone knows she has no friends.
  4. No one has decided to befriend her, even though they know that she doesn't have friends.

Hermione realizes that her best isn't good enough. It doesn't matter that she's good at magic; she's a muggleborn. It doesn't matter that she's helpful; other people don't like her despite her good intentions. It doesn't matter that she's hurting; other people don't care. And so a homesick little girl hides her frustration and pain in the bathroom.

In Methods, the same comment will have a different effect because the reality on the ground is different.

Beyond that, how one responds to social and combat situations is often different; one can easily develop strength in one without strength in the other.

I mean, if I come out of this planet alive I'm probably not going to be fazed by much after that

My opinion of you has ebbed and flowed a lot, Eliezer, but one thing for which I doubt I will ever stop loving you is the way you can talk like a science fiction character with the most perfect nonchalance.

9MixedNuts
The "that made me stronger" feeling might not be all that correlated to actually becoming stronger.
0[anonymous]
Well, it makes you more confident, thus making you better at all tasks that have confidence as a limiting factor.
7Alicorn
You keep starting comments with "Erm..." and then talking past me; I'm really not sure what to make of it. You don't actually have to respond to criticism of your fic if you don't want to...

I usually don't respond, but I care unusually much about what the author of Luminosity thinks.

Hmm.

One of my subagents thinks for some reason that it would be helpful for me to present, instead of direct criticism, a discussion of my own writing weaknesses and what I do / want to do about them, thereby lightly grazing some fraction of what I would say directly about your writing. The subagent thinks that this will be less likely to make you defensive. Is it off-base?

Very possibly on-base. I think my brain is worried that other people will read this and say, "Ah, Eliezer is a patriarchalist writer" instead of, "Oh, well, invisibly behind the scenes Eliezer was trying to juggle this and a dozen other writing problems and desiderata simultaneously and this is what we got." Talking about your own analogous writing problems seems much more likely to lead the wider audience to the second conclusion.

I had no particular intention to talk past you; as we both know, conveying meaning using words is hard, and I might not've understood your intended main point.

Okay, here's my first pass at this.

I'm more comfortable with female characters myself. Both Luminosity and Radiance have girl protags; the Elcenia books are a mix, and of the finished ones there's two female protagonists, a male one whose girlfriend spends a lot of time in the spotlight, and an ensemble cast that only mostly belongs to the male character I think of as its center. I could make up reasons why that isn't something I did on purpose. Luminosity and Radiance are fanfiction. I didn't invent Rhysel, Julie did; Julie also invented Talyn, and his story spends more time focusing on his romance than Rhysel's did; Ilen's not a strong enough character to hold up his own entire book until the very end of the plot; Ehail hardly counts because she's so wispy and much of her book is a vehicle for plot that just happens conveniently nearby her...

But that's a cop-out. I could have written Luminosity with a rationalist Edward if that had struck my fancy, if I'd been willing to lean a little farther away from the canon conceit. I could have given Bella a son instead of a clone of Renesmee with a less silly name, that was completely open to me to have her make that choice when she ... (read more)

6MixedNuts
What happens if you write a female character then go back and change the pronouns?
3Alicorn
I have never tried this. I don't think it would feel comfortable.

I've seen it mentioned elsewhere as a way of finding out what background assumptions one has about gender.

Unfortunately, I have no obvious way of tracking down the cite, but I think the author found that when the male characters were given female pronouns, the amount of agency they showed became very unattractive. I don't remember what the shift was when the male characters were given female pronouns.

On my first reading of Mieville's Embassytown, I kept getting thrown out of the story because I couldn't believe the protagonist was female. I think it's because she was more interested in travel than in people. On the second reading, it wasn't a problem.

A prominent pop-culture example is the Mass Effect sci-fi game series. Unless Commander Shepard's gender is directly relevant (such as during romantic subplots), he/she will say the exact same lines whether man or woman.

Over five years and three lengthy and ambitious games, I've probably read hundreds of pages of people discussing every aspect of the series and its narrative. The single time I can remember anyone saying that 'FemShep' felt a bit off was in direct response to the above observation; outside of that, she was wildly popular and often named as a positive model for the writing of female protagonists.

4AdeleneDawner
Tangent: This basically does that. It doesn't work perfectly on hpmor, though - it swaps the pronouns just fine, but only some of the names, so you have to not only remember that Harry is now Harriet but also do that without being thrown off by the fact that Hermione is still Hermione but with male pronouns. That's patchable (eg, eg), but I don't know that it'd be worth the trouble.
5Eliezer Yudkowsky
I wonder how you'd do if you were writing (smart) children to whom most grownup sexual issues were theoretical.

Grownup sexual issues in the sense of acquainting one's genitalia with someone else's body parts are (mostly) theoretical for (not too precocious) children! Issues of one's sex are decidedly NOT. From a very, very young age - maybe for boys it doesn't become non-theoretical until middle school, but I'd laugh at the idea that girls aren't hyperconscious of gender expectations after the age of about five. MOR!Hermione is constantly comparing her relationship with Harry to "Romances" she has read, expecting herself to fill such a role under constant societal encouragement and reinforcement of how girls just act that way and melt in a variety of creative manners whenever they so much as think momentarily of love. That's something she never ever would have been exposed to and acting upon if she hadn't needed to visit McGonagall in December.

6Eliezer Yudkowsky
That's why I said 'sexual' not 'gender'.
5fubarobfusco
For many boys, gender is non-theoretical some years earlier than that, thanks to: ① adults pointing them at "boys' toys" (trucks, guns, rockets, army men, footballs) and away from "girls' toys" (dolls, ponies, kitchenware, jump ropes), and ② other kids, notably older kids, teasing boys as "sissies" or "girls" (!) if they stray too much outside of gender roles.
8Alicorn
One time I wrote a short story where the child protagonist and eir best friend literally do not have genders yet, does that count?
0zslastman
This post has been very educational to me. The people in my head are either direct copies of me or opaque blocks of remembered behavior by others. I'm not even confident I can tell the difference if someone else is writing them. The fact that it works like this for you is humbling. I wonder how much of that is talent, and how much is skill...
2Alicorn
Most of it is practice. I've had the named characters kicking around in my head for much of my waking time for years.
5DanArmak
Inverse Utility Monster: deliberately goes through hell, returns superpowered. Wise Villain: doesn't make heroes' lives difficult, keeps them underpowered.
3A1987dM
Vegeta from Dragon Ball once deliberately had himself beat to near-death for that very reason.
1dspeyer
Specifically:
3Exetera
So, by this law, Harry and the Weasley twins disturbing Neville outside the Hogwarts Express on the first day was the objectively right thing to do?
6Eliezer Yudkowsky
If they'd known the true consequences with certainty in advance... sure.
0MugaSofer
Why? EDIT:
7buybuydandavis
In a public debate, yes, that is bad form. But getting emotional, crying and running off does not necessarily merit penalty points in a human interaction, and certainly not for 12 year old girls who have recently been threatened with a lengthy term of prison/torture, and finds that her best friend and savior had a hidden and close relationship with someone who wanted to do horrible things to her. Violation of basic trust and in group solidarity.
0A1987dM
Yes, but I wasn't sure you did that on purpose.
1FiftyTwo
Agreed. It works in the story because you don't think about it normally, and can mentally substitute him for an adult and forget he's nominally supposed to be 11. But it's really jarring when attention is called to it as in this chapter. Admittedly this is an issue with a lot of child based literature, but I suppose its especially noticeable in HPMOR because attention is being explicitly directed at the internal mental processes of the characters.
0Alsadius
Either that, or HPMOR has magic even stronger than parental love in it. (I allow every work of fiction a quirk or two that isn't actually plausible, because to not do so is to vastly reduce the variety of stories that I could read. HJPEV I can tolerate, but another divergence from sanity on the same scale would start to really strain my disbelief)
0OrphanWilde
I understood quantum mechanics at 11. Possibly better than I do today, on account of having invented my own theories because I despised the existing ones as hopelessly out on a limb. (Short summary of my quackery: Einstein and quantum physics were/are wrong about light emission and quantized energy, and Rhydberg was right and gave up too quickly.) My first adult book, at the age of 6, was Carl Sagan's Cosmos. It was startling to reread it as an adult and realize I had -comprehended- it at that age, so familiar was much of the material. I was reading and understanding thermodynamics papers when I was eight or nine. My father loved physics, and we'd discuss Feynmann's ideas on long carrides, of which there were many. I was formulating alternative explanations for light when I was twelve. I had read the entire Wheel of Time series, or what existed of it at the time, several times by the age of 11. If I had been more interested in Science Fiction than Fantasy, I would have been a rough approximate of the Harry Potter from Eliezer's story. And if I had discovered rationalist literature, I would have devoured it, probably to the detriment of my mental health today; I was so far gone into Spock territory that -Atlas Shrugged- was a wake-up call that I should pay attention to my emotions when I finally read it. So I find the character more than believable. He's actually rather more emotional and less calculating than I would have been, in his shoes.
0Alsadius
I suppose that if any website would have users who could compare to HJPEV, it'd be this one...
0OrphanWilde
His outlook is in many respects considerably healthier than mine were at that age; I truly believed in rationality for rationality's sake. But I don't find him an unbelievable character. The really incomprehensible parts to me are things that I know some other people are capable of, such as emulating other people in their minds. His internal arguments are completely alien to me.
0A1987dM
OTOH, she was sorted into Ravenclaw, so she ought to be a top-quartile 11-year-old. (My model of real-world 11-year-olds is very vague, though, so I dunno. OTOH, IME there are plenty of adults exhibiting as much silliness as Hermione did in this chapter, so...)

MoR canon points out itself that Ravenclaws aren't necessarily the cleverest, they're selected mainly for the virtue of scholarship and curiosity.

Dumbledore was a Gryffindor, and Riddle and Snape, and in the present generation, Draco, are all Slytherins, and they certainly don't seem like they could be outside the top quartile.

The top quartile of 11 year olds is not really an impressive group. Even the top percentile(assuming as a handwave 100 kids per class)...well, they're still 11. I was in the top percentile at that age by most Ravenclawish metrics, and I was painfully stupid until at least my mid teens(and probably later, truth be told).

I think the female sex in HPMOR comes off poorly for three reasons:

  • The major adults are mostly men. "Female" ends up also signifying "childlike."

  • The author doesn't want to write sports stories. The girls get comic stories about relationships, but the boys don't get comic stories about Quidditch.

  • Hermione and McGonagall are not tragic or ambitious. Draco and Dumbledore can "level up" in HPMOR to agendas worthy of Harry's, but Hermione and McGonagall, being largely tame cooperators, are overshadowed by their even-grander-than-before comrades.

If we wanted to imagine alternate versions of the fic with less of this difficulty, some conceivable changes would be:

  • Give Hermione and McGonagall risk-defying agendas of their own. (Make them Aragorns or Boromirs, not Gimlis and Pippins.)

  • Make the boy students gossip improbably about the teachers' and students' Evil Overlord Plans just as much as the girl students gossip improbably about the teachers' and students' Romantic Entanglements. ("No way, dude! Snape's going to take out Quirrell with his Godelian Braid Potion!")

  • Make Harry need the help of other students more, so that we can understand the girls' gossip as how they let off steam and not as what unimportant people do.

But I think this fic is too nearly done, and too big, to contemplate such changes at this point.

9Solvent
This is a very good point. As a reader, I think those 'silly young boy' conversations would probably get old for me faster than the girl ones.
4Bakkot
They'd get old really fast for me, considering that there isn't a good way for sports stories to even be about main characters.
0Sheaman3773
Unless I'm misunderstanding you, there is a good way for sports stories to be about main characters--you have the main characters be a part of the teams being discussed, say with school sports. That wouldn't work in this fic, of course, but it is possible in general.
7A1987dM
This is much of the reason why in the real world I'm usually way more comfortable with being in all-female (except for me) groups than in all-male groups (unless they are particularly high-Openness). Sports bore the crap out of me.
[-]taelor130

This is kinda tangential, but this just now occured to me: I am male, and my too biggest hobbies are watching pro- sports and playing tabletop RPGs; while various folk ontymologies define these two activities as being on opposite ends of the jock-nerd spectrum, I have always maintained that they are actually quite similar (I am not the first person to comment on this similarity) Both fandoms have a reputation for being male dominated; my question is: is this a co-incidence, or is there something about emotionally investing in naratives that have been basically woven whole cloth from what is essentially a random number generator that is off-putting to girls?

(Possible confounding factor: I'm admittedly not your standard sports fan, though we're apparently a sizable enough minority to get our own negative stereotypes and labels as sportsnerds/statheads.)

6A1987dM
Video games and gambling also are more stereotypically masculine, and I can't think of any stereotypically feminine thing in that reference class, so you might be on to something.
2Alsadius
Also, the more stereotypically-female forms of gambling are things like slots, which have no narrative, while men stereotypically go for the more narrative games like poker.
7NancyLebovitz
Hermione is ambitious-- she wants to be a hero. Unfortunately, it seemed to me as though it was mostly because it sounded cool more than because there was much she wanted to accomplish or protect. Since then, she's taken it on more seriously, though.
0[anonymous]
Her motivations might make her less pure as a hero, but they emphasize that she is ambitious.
0Alsadius
Which adults do you consider major? Dumbledore, Quirrel, Snape, and McGonagall seem the definites, with Moody, Tonks, Flitwick, and Bones as second-stringers. That's 1/4 or 3/8, which is majority-male but not absurd. I do like your second suggestion, though, even if your first is hard to reconcile with canon, and your third is hard to reconcile with MOR!Harry.

You're right, there's nothing absurd, individually, about the mostly-male lead adults, the author's distaste for sports comedy, and having Hermione and McGonagall be far less hubristic than the men.

The author is largely following canon in each of these, except for minimizing Quidditch (for which I, for one, am heartily grateful) and for adding in shipping humor (which I also like). The trouble is the cumulative effect.

I see not the slightest evidence that the author wants Hermione and the other females to come off as narratively second-best to the men.

But in the absence of a positive force impelling Hermione et al toward narrative grandeur, they end up being defined as compliant like McGonagall, or trivial like the romantic gossipers, NPCs rather than PCs in either case.

EY observes that Hermione doesn't need more brainpower to be a force in the story. Unfortunately, since she's in a story, not a collection of biographies, she does need more narrative impetus to get her to engage in story-like behavior alongside the men.

The same is true, at a smaller scale, for Padma as versus Neville and Blaise. The boys have tolerably specific ambitions; the girls don't. Hermione wants to be "a hero"; Harry has a list of specific large problems he's aiming to solve. The narrative outcome was inevitable.

When your main characters are as aggressive and grandiose as Harry and Quirrellmort, anybody without an active force to make them narratively prominent ends up looking second-rate.

2Alsadius
That's a fair criticism.

I've read through the back and forth with EY on Hermione here.

I think the criticisms of EY's treatment of Hermione's silliness share Hermione's silliness.

Hermione is all wound up with feeling not as good as Harry, with a Greater Prodigy crisis, and twists that up in gender ideology. Notice that Draco, the boy born to rule, has no problem accepting Harry's greater competence, and certainly doesn't get in a gender based tizzy over it. Who cries for Draco's unflattering portrayal?

Look at Harry, Draco, and Hermione. Who is more emotionally balanced? Who has a healthier interpersonal outlook? Who isn't going to be a Dark Lord, no matter what? Who is actually the best student? Who treats people the best?

You want to talk about silly? How about Harry's moral tizzy over sentient food. Cannibal!

Keep in mind that Hermione won the first army battle. While the other generals were busy being brilliant and ordering others about, Hermione was busy organizing her team to get the best out of them.

Yes, Hermione doesn't have the sheer power Harry does. Why does she, and apparently others, think she has to have that power or she will be less than?

As for the Mars vs. Venus discussions between Harry an... (read more)

6Daniel_Starr
Ooh, Hermione versus Azkaban. I want that. If Hermione takes down Azkaban and survives, and does so without Harry seeming to take control, that would be more amazing to read than I can possibly express. Also it would be a nice touch of realism: no one good person solves all the problems. But there are three hard literary problems here: * the author has probably got another Azkaban answer in mind, based on Harry, * the author would have to prepare the ground for Hermione grokking the "Death ain't inevitable" approach to Dementors, * it would be tricky to write a realistic Harry who, even from Harry and the reader's POV, was "protecting Hermione's back while she saves the day" as opposed to "rescuing Hermione". The rearguard samurai who buys the hero time is a fiction staple, but it's not a default role for Harry. * [Edit: ] as wedrifid wisely points out below, Hermione has to have a good reason to believe she has to take the lead, since Harry is demonstrably better at the average Confrontational Solution than she is. But if it happens I will be ever so happy.

If Hermione takes down Azkaban and survives, and does so without Harry seeming to take control, that would be more amazing to read than I can possibly express.

It would also reflect terribly on Hermione. She'd be an utter fool to attempt that kind of thing without using Harry's brilliance and resourcefulness. Her influence over Harry is one of her most useful powers and killing stuff ingeniously (and surviving) is pretty much Harry's specialty. It isn't hers.

It's one thing to insist on having your own team in a school battle-games. It's quite another to waste the opportunity to accept aid (and in this case even leadership) from an ally in a situation that means the life and death of yourself and others. It'd be disgustingly immature, take 'silliness' to a whole new level and be completely irrational. Unless Hermione's goal in attacking Azkaban really is more about her ego and signalling and not about the need for Azkaban to be attacked for some direct reason... and she had some reason to be completely confident that it wouldn't kill her.

No respect points for ego when it is at the expense of shut up and multiply.

3Daniel_Starr
Yes, to make it plausible you do have to put Hermione in an impatient or infuriated state of mind, and Harry has to be out of contact. So, for example, suppose: * Harry is elsewhere, preparing his next move against Voldemort; and * Hermione gets dragged to Azkaban on a visit by someone intending to intimidate her, and she concludes it is just as monstrous as Harry thinks. (Actually, she'd probably be even less tolerant: Hermione is not a lesser-evil-excusing sort of person, once you jolt her out of her status-quo bias.) You could argue that would be enough -- Hermione is good at hard work and righteous indignation, and she and Harry could be arranged by the author to have discussed hypothetical Azkaban strategies beforehand. If you wanted added pressure on Hermione, * someone threatens her with death or, indeed, imprisonment within Azkaban. In which case Hermione might rationally decide to "go out with a bang." The hardest part of this (in a literary sense) would be keeping Harry away from Hermione for the critical period.
2Pluvialis
But Hermione isn't really rational, she's just intelligent. I don't think she can perform a feat of astounding rationality in this fic, as you are suggesting. Her idea of morality is flawed and naive. If I imagine her going to Azkaban and destroying it, it would be for decidedly uninspiring reasons to me, as a rationalist.
2Daniel_Starr
I am confused. What would you suggest as an example of an "inspiring reason" to go and destroy Azkaban, that does occur or could occur to Harry, that would not normally occur to Hermione?
1buybuydandavis
I go into more detail in the post below, but I only picture Hermione attacking the dementors under some kind of time pressure with Harry unavailable. http://lesswrong.com/lw/g1q/harry_potter_and_the_methods_of_rationality/8441 But I'd disagree that it would reflect terribly on Hermione. It wouldn't be optimal, but few people behave optimally. Lily's futile attempt to save Harry was suboptimal, but I don't think it reflected terribly on her. Unfortunately, Hermoine's particularly suboptimality is exactly this - trying to prove that she is as effective and powerful as Harry, and so not wanting Harry's help. She should know better. And she does, in a sense, and better than Harry or Draco. She was the general who got her army to help do the planning for the battle. She could accept their help, and sought it out. But her Prodigy Superiority Complex is threatened by help from Harry. This whole scenario is taking a grim turn in my mind. Hermione may sacrifice herself to destroy the dementors, only to have Harry see that the sacrifice was unnecessary, and could have been avoided if he updated the note he gave to her on dementors.
0conchis
It wouldn't necessarily reflect badly on her: if someone has to die to take down Azkaban,* and Harry needs to survive to achieve other important goals, then Hermione taking it down seems like a non-foolish solution to me. *This is hinted at as being at least a strong possibility.
5buybuydandavis
For the literary problems: We've already gotten the scene where Harry decides he has something else to do besides killing dementors. Harry has expressed that he's sure Hermione could learn the True Patronus and wouldn't be able to stop herself from destroying Azkaban. She already has the secret in a note from Harry. She's been introduced to Fawkes. And she was led to her first bullies by flashes of gold and red. He could have Harry taken to Azkaban, and Hermione break him out. That would be a bit too femi-cliched for my taste, but you never know. Harry might be off somewhere, and Hermione will need to face the choice of going to Azkaban alone. She might face the choice believing that Harry is dead. EY has referred to Stephen Donaldson before. A "Lord Mhoram's Victory" scenario could fit nicely. (Very moving scene from Donaldson, and perfectly in line with EY's sense of life.) Along that line, maybe all the Dementors besiege Hogwarts (Harry and Dumbledore being elsewhere), slowly wearing down the defenses, and General Sunshine remembers the note from Harry, runs off to get it, and as she overcomes her fear of Dementors and resolves to fight them, she hears a great CAW! and is faced by a phoenix that transports her into the midst of the Dementors and she destroys them all. I think the groundwork has been laid, and the plot turns aren't so difficult. Hermione as taking McGonagal's in mounting the defense of Hogwarts works for me.
2Daniel_Starr
Oh, good point, the author's prepared for Hermione to take on Azkaban. The trick will be motive. If Hermione harrows Azkaban for Harry's sake, that's Hermione the faithful NPC, not Hermione who has wishes and dreams of her own. If Hermione harrows Azkaban because it's the right thing to do, that will be pure awesome. As you say, if Hermione believes Harry is dead, especially if she believes some other innocent is about to be sent to Azkaban, she could spring into action quite on her own. I think you've convinced me 66% that Hermione, not Harry, takes on Azkaban. What I don't feel so confident of is that the author will manage to do this in a way that Hermione's motive is "because it's the right thing". The gravitational pull of "Harry causes all interesting good things" is strong. Avoiding the "Harry causes everything good" gravitational field isn't an insoluble problem. But EY has a lot of other balls to juggle besides the harrowing of Azkaban.
2buybuydandavis
Staying with Harry is not for Harry's sake, it is the right thing to do. I think you're over constraining the solution. And I wouldn't say that the harrowing of Azkaban is the point - it's the destruction of the dementors. The continual torture provided by the dementors is what makes Azkaban an abomination. Although wouldn't it be strange to have someone else defeat Death besides Harry? He's learned much more about death than he knew when he first cast the True Patronus, and he has the invisibility cloak.
6Daniel_Starr
A Hermione who risks all against Dementors "to help Harry" is not nearly as interesting to me as a Hermione who risks all against Dementors because they're evil regardless of Harry. We'll all help our friends. Pick any evil person in history -- they had friends. If they're a political leader, they had lots of admirers. The fic itself has Harry make the point that if you're only interesting in helping an "us" and not a "them", that's a pretty weak sort of good that easily turns to evil. I think in a fic so full of extraordinary characters, Hermione deserves to be extraordinary enough to do awesome things even for strangers, even when she doesn't think her friends will benefit, because a world without dementors is just better.
1Pluvialis
I can well imagine Hermione getting a phoenix. Her potentially resulting self-sacrifice could well be a climactic point in the fic, in fact. Its effect on Harry would be interesting to see, too.
0buybuydandavis
Just reading that makes me sad.

As a rule, "And what effect does this have on the protagonist?" is the most commonly answered question in narrative. That's what being the protagonist means, really.

3Alicorn
I'm... I'm not saying that Hermione is written without virtues, or without net rather a lot of virtues. Hermione's lovely and I would want to be friends with her. I'm saying she has this flaw (it is fine that she has a flaw, characters need those) and that so do all the other girls her age (it is not fine that they all share it, characters need variety) and that it's representative of a larger pattern of mishandling female characters (also not fine).

Could you precisely state the flaw you see? You say "silly" a lot, but what specific behavior do you find objectionable, and why?

I don't see the same behavior in the silly girls and Hermione. The girls play gossiping romantic fantasy, which Hermione herself has contempt for. The closest behavior is Hermione getting emotional about her relationships with Harry and other people, and what people think of her. Is having emotions about what others think a character flaw?

I go into more detail a bit elsewhere in the thread. She becomes hysterical about Draco, indulging some bewildering sort of friend-jealousy or romantic precociousness, moralizing to an unforgiving degree that she cannot possibly endorse if she thought about it for thirty seconds, making sweeping unsupported assertions about human psychology, determining of a sudden for no reason that Harry was supposed to be Science Monogamous with her, throwing a tantrum that is not necessarily age inappropriate but is not in keeping with her typical level of personal maturity, making their genders way more salient than they needed to be (she does throughout the fic, it's weird), identifying herself for some reason as a "poor innocent little girl" victimized by a question that she just made relevant enough for Harry to ask...

No offense (and I'm a boy so quite probably biased about this, fair warning) but are you sure you know what girls are like in real life? I know in a utopian world there would be no gender stereotyping, but in my honest experience, even as someone who strongly wishes stereotypes would all burn and die, girls in schools do gossip, and stress about relationships, and quite possibly are prone to sensitivity and preoccupation about love, even if it is culturally rooted.

Just wondering I guess if you've been so successful in emancipating yourself from that stereotype (congratulations on that) that you've ended up with unrealistic expectations of what is actually normal for girls.

That said I don't know you and don't want to come across as though I'm certain of what I'm saying either, just reporting on my brain's response to your comment.

EDIT: Typo fix

Up until I was about Hermione's age, my friends were nearly all girls, and they were an even mix beyond that. I am not claiming anything so preposterous as that girls do not gossip or fixate on interpersonal matters. Of course they do; it's not even limited to children. I am saying that girls are not uniformly silly creatures, differentiated only by name, approximate g factor, and school House.

I think it would take more than 30 seconds to get over the fact that someone you rely on to be your only equal friend does not have a symmetrical relationship where you're similarly important, not to mention his OTHER close friend is the guy who has said he wants you dead.

0Sheaman3773
Hermione explicitly thinks that it's sad that Harry only has her for a friend, while she can have other people that she enjoys spending time with. She thinks that it's flattering, but also a lot of pressure. If anything, this makes it seem that she's upset that the relationship is more symmetrical than it initially appears. I fully agree with the part about the additional relationship being with someone who wants to do unspeakable things to her, however.

I said it elsewhere, but I'll reiterate and expand here.

Getting emotional, crying and running off does not necessarily merit penalty points in a human interaction, and certainly not for 12 year old girls who have recently been threatened with a lengthy term of prison/torture for attempted murder of someone who she recently discovered wanted to do horrible things to her, and then finds that her best friend and savior had a hidden and close relationship with that someone. Threats to security, violation of basic trust and in group solidarity, where the stakes are a torture death for her and the allegiance of her best friend and savior, who she had recently resolved to stick by in the face of a persistent threat to her own life.

Maybe the inside view of that would be hugely emotional, and might impair dispassionate thought a tad?

Me, I think it was a narratively appropriate scene for him to reintroduce a little cliched comedy. It was a little overdone on both sides for comic effect, but that's how you make comedy. I thought it worked. I thought it was fun. I think he tends a little toward slapstick with his comedy, and it's not intended to be taken as entirely realistic character development.

2RomeoStevens
Strongly agree, also like to point out: What makes you assume she will endorse it after she has had time to calm down and think about it for 30 seconds? I endorse incoherent positions all the time that I then am forced to retract on reflection. Doesn't everyone? If our knee jerk reactions to things were correct we wouldn't all be here arguing on LW.

Eliezer obviously agrees with you, but... Hermione doesn't sound silly at all to me. Okay, explicitly believing that sufficient lack of sympathy makes one an inherently bad person is silly, but no sillier than Dumbledore's deathism. And the jealousy is completely justified. Harry encouraged the rivalry, then promised they would study magic together - that they'd be the team to crack it, the only researchers in the wizarding world, not that she could lend a hand as human library. Of course they're supposed to be Science Monogamous. And it's not like he's met another great scientist; he's going out of his way to teach science to someone who hated her.

I tried to get one of my friends to read MoR and he quit after about Chapter 20 because he was getting annoyed at how the children weren't acting like children. I think from his point of view, the disparity you're identifying between Hermione and Harry, say, doesn't count as mishandling Hermione so much as mishandling Harry... as far as my friend's point of view is concerned, Hermione acting silly is a completely appropriate response to what she's been through, and there is something deeply wrong with Harry Potter.

And... this is hard to talk about because I feel like I constantly have to make sure what I'm saying doesn't count as Clueless Male Cluelessly Defending The Patriarchy. I have some small understanding of male privilege. It would be nice if I could be given the benefit of the doubt on this. (Now I'm trying to figure out if that counts as Clueless Male Cluelessly Defending The Patriarchy...)

3Eugine_Nier
Don't worry about it. Complaints about "Clueless Male Cluelessly Defending The Patriarchy" are mostly an excuse to enforce norms about things you can't say.
5fubarobfusco
Complaints about "things you can't say" are mostly defenses of extortionate strategies in social relations.
4A1987dM
IME people very often do that in real life.
8NancyLebovitz
This relates to something I think I've been seeing-- most of the boys are silly but it's because people are silly.The girls are silly because they're girls. On the other hand, I've only read HPMOR once. Does this seem like a fair reading?
8Alsadius
Can you point out any concrete examples of what you mean?
3NancyLebovitz
Not right now-- I'd have to do a serious reread, I think. I can do some generalities though, if that might help. First, I realize that analyzing stereotypes in fiction is difficult because it's about background assumptions (aleifs?) of the author and the readers interacting with each other. And I keep wondering why so much thought goes into GRRMartin possibly stereotyping his female characters when King Robert is a more simple negative gender stereotype than I think any of the female characters are. Part of the problem is that the girls in HPMOR seem like an undiferrentiated gossiping mass. I admit that I haven't noticed differences among the minor boy characters, either, but at least they don't all seem like they're all the same. Alicorn, what have you noticed?

I'm not sure I'm quite on the same wavelength here, but what I'm seeing is that the boys are mostly proto-somethings - not just the obvious ones, like Harry being on the road to being a Light Lord or Draco gearing up to be the first reasonably-enlightened Lord Malfoy, but even relatively minor characters like Neville and Ron, you can get a pretty good idea of what kinds of people they're going to be when they grow up by looking at what they're like now and extrapolating - and the question of what kinds of people they'll be is taken seriously, too, in how things are framed and how the other characters react to things. (Harry's very first interaction with Neville, for example.) The girls don't really seem to have that same quality of being adults in training; even Hermione's heroism arc was more about her reputation and ego in the here-and-now than anything I can imagine her continuing past age 16 or so, and it takes a lot more work to imagine any of them having interesting roles as adults - it feels like it really doesn't matter whether any of them do anything more interesting than being housewives.

Yes, that's it: the girls don't aim for distinctive future selves, the boys do.

Blaise and Neville are each trying to become something, and it's something different in each case. The girls? Not nearly so much.

This seems a strange comment to me. After the SPHEW arc I think I have a much better understanding of the thoughts and ambitions of e.g. Padma (doesn't want to fall back into harmony with her sister and is now seeking a non-evil way to do this), Susan (voice of caution through the influence of her Aunt, non-arrogant enough to seek out Tonks help) or Tracey (Darke Lady who'll have everyone as her husband), than e.g. the characters of Dean Thomas or Seamus Finnigan or even Blaise Zabini. Possibly even Neville Longbottom.

3Daniel_Starr
The boys get the HPMOR equivalent of "I want to be a selfless doctor" or "I want to be an important politician." The girls get the equivalent of "I don't want to be like my relatives" or "I want to be adored by lots of men". The girls' aims seem defined by types of relationships, which makes them more fragile and harder to visualize than aiming for a type of occupation. This doesn't mean that Padma wouldn't be cool in reality. (Real-life outcomes seem determined as much by search method as by deliberately planned destinations.) But in a story, it gives her less narrative impact.
3ArisKatsaris
I don't see it. Can you speak specifics? What does Blaise Zabini, or Neville Longbottom or Lesath Lestrange or Seamus Finnigan or Dean Thomas get in regards to the above? On my part, I see Blaise want to amuse himself via lots and lots of counterproductive-to-his-own-good plots, Neville wanting to avenge his parents, Lesath wanting to be Harry's minion, and I don't remember Dean and Seamus ambitions at all...
3AdeleneDawner
This isn't what I was talking about. We don't need to know the details of what a character is trying to do to see that they're acting in a goal-directed kind of way, or to infer some general things about the types of goals they're going after. It's kind of like - imagine watching a documentary about rubber balls, and there's a two-minute clip in it about how they're shipped that shows a truck and gives a vague handwavey map of the transportation network. At the end of the documentary, you'll know much more about rubber balls than trucks, but that doesn't make rubber balls more complex or more interesting than trucks are - and you have enough information to know that, even if you can't say much more about trucks than that they exist and can carry things over long distances. What I was actually trying to get at is a bit more subtle than even that, though - even the boys who aren't actively trying to become specific plausible types of narratively-coherent adults are pulled into that by the assumptions of the people surrounding them, whereas the girls don't just care less individually (of the ones you named, only Padma has anything remotely like a realistic goal for adult-herself, as opposed to a simple set of character traits or a silly fantasy that obviously won't happen), the people around them don't take an interest in the issue, either.
6Alicorn
I agree with the "undifferentiated gossiping mass" bit. Any specific example has a corresponding counterexample. Padma Patil, for example, gets nonzero development and, IIRC, perspective time, which could go a ways to counter "undifferentiated gossiping mass" - but a male character on about her tier of importance, like Blaise Zabini, gets to enact plot and is more distinct as a single person than she is. Even Ron, who is of negligible relevance, has a named skill that differentiates him from the background. Does Padma? As far as I can recall Padma is just sort of generically informedly bright. Hermione's intelligence, gratuitous perfect recall, and magical prowess can go a ways to counter "female characters are less competent" - but the most competent characters, even if you don't count the protagonist, are all male.

Padma feels to me like a much more important character than Blaise Zabini, and a more developed character too. I could go into detail but I'm not sure I should, since that sort of thing an author is supposed to communicate through story. I wonder how that perspective difference developed?

9LucasSloan
It seems clear to me that Padma has a future, whereas Blaise has none. This isn't quite the same as saying that she has been more important than he. Also, Padma has been developed as a character insofar as she has actually been changing over the course of the story, but her personality is only slightly more explored than Blaise's.
6drethelin
I can't off the top of my head think of anything Padma has done apart from trade places with her sister, whereas Blaise was helpful to Hermione's start as a general, pulled off the ridiculous underwater plot, and had the badass moment of sitting exactly in the middle of the room. I even know something about his mother.

Padma had the subplot where she was mean to Hermione and Harry "reformed" her or whatever. She is put as second in command in Dragon Army and is respected enough by Draco to make him realize why his father said that Ravenclaw was an acceptable House from which to choose one's wife. She is shown to be powerful and loyal in both the armies and in SPEW (her prismatic sphere or whatever is mentioned to be particularly strong; she doesn't hesitate when Hermione tells her to go find help). Finally, she sort of kind of notices that something is wrong when interacting with Tonks!Susan while the others all think that Susan is a double witch. I'm not going to argue about whether she's more important than Blaise but she definitely does more than just switch places with her sister.

On the topic of Blaise, we can be fairly confident that almost none of what happened in the underwater battle was the result of his competence; he was just the headmaster's tool. Also, we are shown that he isn't that skillful a leader as without the advantage of the green glasses he loses his battle against (I think) Dean Thomas. On the other hand, Padma successfully leads Dragon army to victory after Draco looses his duel with Hermione.

9Manfred
Hm. This suggests that an important factor might be reader bias as well. Though really, all anyone remembers Blaise Zabini for is his moment-of-badassery. Anyone without an in-writing moment of badassery is going to seem less memorable no matter what.
3Eliezer Yudkowsky
...yep.
4CAE_Jones
In terms of memorable badassery, sure, Blaise seems to have more. But Padma feels more relevant, and more developed. It's just that she's so incredibly not in the spotlight that people seem to gravitate toward Blaise as the most ascended of the first years because of how showy his displays were. Outside of the plotting in the battles, Blaise doesn't seem to do anything, whereas Padma is around and interacting with people and even got Harry to do something politically dangerous to protect Hermione's reputation. I was actually a little surprised that the tvtropes article made Blaise out to be the most notable ascended extra, when he had effectively one moment in the spotlight and the plotting surrounding that, whereas Padma seems like a more consistent secondary (or maybe tertiary) character.
8Exetera
It's possible that this perception of undifferentiated gossiping masses may be affected by bias in what the named characters listen to. The male population of Hogwarts might well seem like an undifferentiated Quidditch-loving mass if it weren't for Harry's tendency to fling Quieting Charms around when he wants to get out of conversation. (And, as a more literary reason, the girls' gossip is often plot-relevant whereas Quidditch jabberings wouldn't be.)
8NancyLebovitz
I admit I don't remember Padma, but that may be more a matter of me than the book. I'm not the most focused reader on the planet. If the boys were as stereotyped as the girls, I think they'd be constantly boasting and talking about which wizard could defeat which other wizard and making fart jokes.
3CronoDAS
Me too; I can't remember the differences between the various female students that aren't Hermione. They feel like background - possibly because they don't interact with Harry very much and they spend most of their on-screen time talking to each other.
9ArisKatsaris
I feel that the SPHEW arc clearly differentiated half a dozen girls' personalities. I still wouldn't really know much about Dean Thomas vs Seamus Finnigan. Do you really feel that you couldn't tell apart Tracey's and Susan's characters?
-1CronoDAS
I don't even remember the names of the different girls. There's one named Susan? Then again, I don't remember the minor male characters you mentioned either... ::goes and looks up chapter 87 again:: You know, I thought that "Hypothesis: Hermione Granger" section actually was just the usual gang of girls talking again. I didn't even notice that it wasn't until just now...

Well here's a reminder of the SPHEW members for the benefit of all: The following is the impression I've already gotten from their personalities

From Hufflepuff:
Susan Bones - cautious, loyal, feeling they're getting into DOOM and trying to avert it.
Hannah Abbot - smaller than the rest, shy, but trying too hard sometimes in order to impress the others - and Neville

From Slytherin:
Tracey Davis - very theatrical, very very eager, getting into the Darke Lady spirit, most silly of the girls, wants Draco and Harry for her husbands
Daphne Greengrass - attempts to seem dignified and self-controlled as befits her Most Ancient House, also crushing on Neville

From Ravenclaw:
Hermione
Padma Patil - currently trying to find a non-evil way of not-falling-back-into harmony with her sister Parvati)

From Gryffindor:
Lavender Brown - most enthusiastic about the hero/superhero thing, with costumes and catchphrases and such
Parvati Patil- only one who's personality I'm not certain about.

-8ewbrownv
0MugaSofer
So, you're saying that showing boys as silly is realistic, but showing girls as silly is sexist?

The argument she's making is that the silliness of the girls is all uniform and dependent on them being girls, namely that they all gossip about Harry, Hermione, and Draco in a romantic context. Now this isn't true if you take the SPEW members into account, but I can sort of see it if you only consider unnamed or cameo female characters in their dining hall conversations. She's also saying that the silliness shown by the male characters isn't so obviously determined by their gender (see: lack of silly conversations about Quidditch and other suggestions mentioned in the comments of this post).

4NancyLebovitz
All of that, plus the girls' gossip being so heavily underlined for humor-- and to be fair, I thought a good bit of the humor was funny. This is bigger deal than it sounds like since I think almost all humorous fantasy and science fiction is more like a sequence of humor-shaped objects than anything that makes me want to laugh.
-2MugaSofer
I was being somewhat sarcastic there. On reflection, it seems like we do see the girl NPCs being silly ore often, but we see them more often period (perhaps because Hermione cares more about reputation, and she's a girl,I dunno) and all NPCs are shown similarly silly. But that's just my general impression, I haven't exactly counted.
0Alicorn
I agree with you.
7Vaniver
I think this is because Harry doesn't deeply understand / have preferences between the various attractive male archetypes, and so when he sees Snape he thinks "male" instead of, say, "brooding, vulnerable, dark, assertive, high standards male."

Looks like it's just because he very recently had a conversation with McGonagall where "Hey, I might turn out attracted to Snape" was relevant (to judging girls who are attracted to him), so he's primed to think of him as an example.

1Vaniver
I'm aware. I think that the additional details add precision.
-1Alicorn
Silliness. He's already entertained the thought of marrying Professor Quirrell.

But only in an obviously joking way. Snape seems to be the one all the girls go for, so he assumes that he'd do the same if he were gay.

8Vaniver
Sure. But in that particular conversation, they were discussing the class of females that finds Professor Snape attractive. Harry, inexperienced in differentiating between the flavors of male attractiveness, has no idea what information McGonagall is conveying when she refers to a "certain sort of girl" that is drawn to Snape. As far as he can tell, she means "heterosexual plus unknown," and he rounds "unknown" down to zero when forecasting for himself. (Great use of probabilistic reasoning there, Harry.) If he did understand, he would have been able to identify that Snape probably wouldn't be his type, even if he were interested in men.
3MixedNuts
The research on same-sex attraction is kind of weird. 10% is a good ballpark guess for how many men are habitually into men (with about an even split between gay and bi), but Kinsey (old data, time for a replication) gives more of a 20% total (with an even split too), using an unclear mix of attraction and behavior. But he also says that 46% (?!) of men have ever been attracted to a man. Maybe Harry is guesstimating that the probability he's into men in general but not Snape and the probability he's not much into men but Snape is an exception more or less cancel out?
8Izeinwinter
Kinsey used interviews, and there are some issues with sampling bias with his work - Almost all research on this since has used surveys. Which give wildly differing percentages depending on how the question is asked. asking about behavior in very carefully neutral tones: "How long has it been since you have had sex with a man ?: Day, week, month, year, never" "How long has it been since you have had sex with a woman? Day, week, month, year, never" Usually gives results in the 10% range, Asking outright if people are gay or lesbian, 2 to 3 %., A lot of this can be ascribed to the fact that LBGT is not just a preference, it is also a subculture - Just because you sleep with members of the same sex does not guarantee that you feel like a part of that subculture. Snape... That is both the author and the character being funny.
3A1987dM
I thought it's supposed (by the author, not necessarily by the character) to be silly.
1[anonymous]
Start pursuing some more Harry Potter fanfiction and you might find some people don't think it's all that silly at all.
6MugaSofer
Trouble is, McGonagall was the first representative of Magical Britain we met, so she gets to represent the Average Wizard (average witch?) EDIT: I meant that she's kind of a representative of the magical world generally. Wizards aren't generally hypercompetent. (It's a fandom in-joke.)
5NancyLebovitz
It didn't seem that way to me-- McGonagall is shown enough respect by other wizards and witches that she's clearly above average.
0MugaSofer
I meant that more in terms of she's kind of a representative of the magical world generally. Wizards aren't generally hypercompetent. Hmm, that didn't come across very well.
7Alsadius
I think it's fair. She's competent, but she's not superhuman. In a fic based around the interaction of ~3 people who are(Harry, Quirrell, and Dumbledore), she's going to come off second-best.
4[anonymous]
Exactly! Just like Hagrid was in canon.
6ygert
Given the Quibbler article and everything, I'd actually expect it to be Draco that he uses as his example.

Given how anxious he is about the idea of romance I would think he would tend to shy away from anything that realistic. Snape is safe since a teacher/student relationship would be excluded on ethical grounds. Draco could actually happen, and so better not to think about.

Considering how Hermione reacted to the Science-with-Draco bit we can guess her reaction to might-marry-Draco-instead. Would totally look to her like Harry tried to keep his options open depending on how his orientation turned out after puberty.

3DanArmak
I would have to support Harry here. Asking someone to declare love before they even know their sexual orientation is completely irrational.
4wuncidunci
I did not say this view of it would be accurate or rational. Hermione was however very upset in this scene and already saw Draco as a rival for Harry's friendship.
3MixedNuts
Yeah, but the correct reply is "I'm just not into you right now, if that changes I'll tell you and you tell me if you've moved on yet", not "You and the guy who threatened to rape-murder you should carry torches for me and I'll pick the one I like best when I hit puberty". Hermione is feeling betrayed because she's not special enough to Harry, telling her that she's only special because of her gender won't help matters.
-1Alsadius
Only if you assume that love has to be sexual.
6DanArmak
In this context 'love' refers to romantic love, which is mostly sexual(ized). Other kinds of love are different, but Hermione wasn't talking about them. For instance she wouldn't be offended that Harry also loves his parents.
1lukstafi
? I have a different conception of romantic love. I could swear I've been in love with my kindergarten teacher. And I was "dating" girls two years later. It ended though as this part of myself grew introvert, still before puberty.
5[anonymous]
McGonagall isn't silly, but she is the weakest Order-of-the-Phoenix character we've seen by far. She's always too stupid to understand what the wizards are talking about. She, much more than Hermoine, is a female character that is not strong enough. It would be interesting to see more of Bones. She has certainly shown herself pretty bright and likable, and we haven't seen her priorities and tastes be as questionable as the other competent characters (Dumbledore, Snape, Quirrell, Moody).
5Joshua Hobbes
I think a lot of this should be blamed on Rowling, not Eliezer. Hermione is pretty much the same as she is in canon, and I don't think we can fault him for not upgrading her.
1Alicorn
I disagree on all counts. Hermione does have a silliness flaw in canon, but it's much weaker. And Eliezer upgraded everyone else important.

Erm... a basic theory of MoR is that all the characters get automatic intelligence upgrades, except for Hermione who doesn't need it and starts out as exactly similar to her canon self as I could manage, thus putting everyone on an equal footing for the first time. I presume you're familiar with the literary theory which holds that Hermione is the main character of the canon Harry Potter novels?

Is that seriously what you were trying to do? I don't think canon Hermione actually has an eidetic memory, for one thing. And canon Hermione is not as silly. Even early on she has the ability to sort of... roll her eyes and move forward, when that's called for. Canon Hermione lectures but does not moralize; canon Hermione is not this romantically precocious.

1NancyLebovitz
What are the details about Hermione's memory in canon? Isn't there a bit about her remembering exactly what someone said, one of the other characters being surprised, and her explaining that she can remember because she listens?
-1Alicorn
She certainly has a good memory, but she does not casually memorize 100% of things.
8Eliezer Yudkowsky
MoR:
5Alicorn
I always interpreted her as exaggerating in canon; MoR leaves less room for that interpretation but if you read it differently to begin with I suppose they're not really as in tension as I thought.

I always interpreted her as exaggerating in canon

She quotes textbooks word for word, all the time. It's practically a running gag. I always assumed that Rowling thought that was a side effect of being smart.

0J_Taylor
I am having difficulty finding evidence of this. Could you perhaps give an example? (Ideally, a passage from the book.)
0blashimov
Yeesh, I know she at least once remembered the right section and page, then read from the book, and I feel like she's quoted books before, but darned if I can find it easily.
-1MugaSofer
In Half-Blood Prince, when Snape is first teaching the class about silent casting, he asks if anyone can explain why it's useful in combat. Hermione's answer is identical to that given in the textbook, which Snape comments on.
3J_Taylor
Possibly an example. Are you are referring to this: This is basically Snapish for "You got the only correct answer, but I still hate you. Had you given an incorrect answer, I would told you that you suck as a person. Thankfully, the correct answer to this question is in a schoolbook. As such, I'll still use this opportunity to tell you that you suck as a person." It does not seem to have anything to do with Hermione actually having an eidetic memory.
2MugaSofer
Yup, that's the one. Only Snape would criticize someone for having the answer too right (although there are overtones of "Guessing the Teacher's Password" here.) (I never said that Hermione had an eidetic memory, only that she quotes textbooks.)
4Sheaman3773
As a teacher-in-training, I feel that I should say that while I do feel utterly appalled at Snape's pedagogical practices, there is a problem with reciting directly from the textbook. That is, if you are quoting the textbook precisely, then how is the teacher to differentiate between remembrance and understanding? That is why teachers of more writing-oriented subjects often ask for the students to give their answer in their own words, to better gauge understanding. There's also the possibility of the book having too limited a viewpoint, something that Severus "The Half-Blood Prince" Snape would definitely agree with, but he probably was just being a terrible human being, yes.
0CronoDAS
What about fanon!Hermione?
0Alicorn
I don't remember seeing an MoRish Hermione in any of the fic I've read.
2NancyLebovitz
Have you read Amends, or Truth and Reconciliation? It's at least got a very smart Hermione who understands that she has to think about what she's doing in order to defend what she cares about.
0Alicorn
Haven't seen it; I'll take a look.
3MugaSofer
Is this seriously as close to canon!Hermione as you could get it? I assumed she got edietic memory to replace her canon intelligence, since everyone was getting the intelligence upgrade anyway. And the whole Bad/Good thing seems almost completely original to HPMOR, although it's possible it's a fanon thing I just haven't come across.
4Joshua Hobbes
All the adults certainly were, but what about the students? Draco was the same before Harry started corrupting him, Ron's still an idiot, Neville is still a Hufflepuff, etc. Maybe Fred and George are a bit more awesome, and Zabini is an entirely different person, but aside from that Harry's peers seem to have been kept to the same level. If Hermione were a sensible person, she'd probably outclass Harry just as much as she does in canon, and then the story would be Hermione Granger and How She Learned the Methods of Rationality and Became Omnipotent.

and then the story would be Hermione Granger and How She Learned the Methods of Rationality and Became Omnipotent

Yeah, exactly. Also Equally-Upgraded!Hermione plausibly ought to be smarter than the author.

If you think Draco is the same, you need to reread canon.

-3Joshua Hobbes
Are you referring to the sexual stuff? I don't think that shows a difference in his personality so much as a lack of censorship. I could easily conceive of canon Draco making such comments, but them never being in the books due to censorship.

I'm referring to the competence. Canon Draco was a small-minded bully. Remember the Most Dangerous Student in the Classroom bit? Canon Draco made enemies every time he opened his mouth.

8Joshua Hobbes
Alright, you win there.
5NancyLebovitz
MOR Draco had a course of education from his father that there was no evidence for in canon.
8wedrifid
Yes, there is a causal explanation for why Draco is entirely different and much more powerful than in canon.
5Sly
When my girlfriend and I sat down last night to read the latest chapter she actually said to me after starting: "Ehh, this is a Hermione chapter, let's do something else and read this later." I think I agree with you.
4Bobertron
I think being jealous of Draco was the first really silly thing. But before, in Taboo Tradeoffs, she was only a damsel in distress. And before that she was the protagonist in Self Actualization, and that whole story-arc was pretty silly. I don't think that she is very silly. Things like thinking that, going to McGonagall is the responsible thing to do, seem silly, but only in comparison to Harry. But if she doesn't start doing things that are relevant, soon, she will seem pretty pathetic. (Her actions in SA weren't relevant, and in Taboo Tradeoffs it wasn't really her actions).

In any fic that comes out in installments, there's incentive for the author to have ever-more-gripping plot, for the sake of readers' short attention spans. I'm glad Eliezer has not fallen into this spiral, and still feels able to post a chapter in which no new plot developments happen (other than characters finding out about previous events).

So have a heart-shaped red-foil-wrapped candy.

I just had quite a dismal thought. Harry is in disbelief the entire wizarding world is not pursuing the stone as priority one, which is a reasonable enough reaction.. Except.. How many wizards actually manage to die in their beds? Given the stated lifespan, and the cultural tendency to marry young, families ought to have a lot of generations alive at the same time.. but the older generations are thin on the ground. Harry was not raised by his grandparents! none of whom ought to have passed away from natural causes. Those elders we hear about are in the main fairly high up on the "competency/scary/power" scales. The logical implication being that wizards are not overly concerned about old age, because very few of them ever die from it. Something else - A dark lord, screwing up a spell, the magical wildlife, a succession dispute.. will get you first.. This logic could well deter a lot of people from attempting alchemy ; Succeeding in making a stone without being as good a survivor as Flamel carries a significant risk of dying now to violence instead of in 90 years to natural causes.

Of course, this also means that Flamel might not be very unique at all. If the stone is widely regarded as a nuisance magnet, successful crafters may be keeping a low profile.

Given the stated lifespan, and the cultural tendency to marry young, families ought to have a lot of generations alive at the same time.. but the older generations are thin on the ground.

They just had a magical war in which pretty much everyone lost a lot of their family, as noted in the earlier chapters.

4AnthonyC
And another one 40 years earlier. And these are wizards whose power comes from knowledge, so this is often a world where Old Is Strong. We might expect older people (in good health, because of healers arts, as Harry notes when talking to Dumbledor eabout immortality) to be closer to the front lines.
3Desrtopa
For that matter, screwing up an attempt to make the Philosopher's Stone might very well be one way to invite a premature death. Alchemy isn't necessarily safe.
0ygert
Good theory. The only objection I see is that it does not explain why the few wizards who have survived to a moderately old age do not pursue the stone. (It cannot be the case that all wizards die before they get close to dying of old age, as there are several old wizards running around both in HPMOR and canon. (e.g. Dumbledore)) In other word, while this theory explains why young wizards don't try to make the stone, it does not explain why wizards who are already old don't try for it.

Couple of options:

1: They do. Once a decade or so, someone succeeds and promptly takes full advantage of the fact that nobody is going to connect the youth of 16 they now have the look of with the magus of 160 they were, assume a new identity and keep their gob shut. For maximal hilarity, this could explain the rumor about double witches - there is no such thing, but youthful witches and wizards with absurd powerlevels? Real, if rare.

2: The rite does not work well, or at all, for the old. Several options:

2a: The muggle mythos about the stone is not entirely off base. The creation of the stone requires a level or type of virtue exceedingly rare in people who have survived 150 +years in the wizarding culture.

2b: "Alchemy" is wizarding euphemism for "Tantric Magic", which is why all the books are restricted and while the spirit may be willing... >,) This also explains why Flamel only shares the stone with his wife - You can only help people you sleep with. This, of course, also rather nixes any of our heroes doing it anytime the next 5 years or so.

2c: For reasons similar to potions, the rite just does nothing for a caster over the age of 15.

3: Merlins interdict is screwing with the recipe- anyone wishing to make a stone has to do the research from scratch, and without an extant community of alchemical researchers, that is a project beyond the capability of any intellect ever born. - Flamels success happened in a context that no longer exists.

4drethelin
I like the idea that Merlin's interdict has ruined any community of alchemical (or any other kind of magic) researchers who don't work face to face.

Harry is missing a point, tough. Flamel is 600 years old, and started out powerful. Presumably, "trying to blackmail / kidnap Flamel" has been the endpoint of the careers of enough dark lords that they do not attempt this anymore.

,,, Wait. alchemical diagrams need to be drawn "to the fineness of a child's hair"? ... ... Eh,, I think it entirely possible that Flamel is the only wizard to ever manage to make a stone because he is the only wizard to ever try it while young enough to use his own hair. In which case, Hermione is going to show up with a working stone shortly.

Harry's failing pretty badly to update sufficiently on available evidence. He already knows that there are a lot of aspects of magic that seemed nonsensical to him: McGonagall turning into a cat, the way broomsticks work, etc. Harry's dominant hypothesis about this is that magic was intelligently designed (by the Atlanteans?) and so he should expect magic to work the way neurotypical humans expect it to work, not the way he expects it to work.

In particular his estimate of the likelihood of a story like Flamel's is way off. Moreover, the value of additional relevant information seems extremely high to me, so he really should ask Dumbledore about it as soon as possible. Horcruxes too.

Edit: And then he learns that Dumbledore is keeping a Philosopher's Stone in Hogwarts without using it and promptly attempts a citizen's arrest on him for both child endangerment and genocide...

3Solvent
I disagree. It seems to me that individual spells and magical items work in the way neurotypical humans expect them to work. However, I don't think that we have any evidence that the process of creating new magic or making magical discoveries works in an intuitive way. Consider by analogy the Internet. It's not surprising that there exist sites such as Facebook which are really well designed and easy to use for humans, rendering in pretty colors instead of being plain HTML. However, these websites were created painstakingly by experts dealing with irritating low level stuff. It would be surprising that the same website had a surpassingly brilliant data storage system as well as an ingenius algorithm for something else.
0Qiaochu_Yuan
We have some weak evidence, namely McGonagall asserts that new charms and whatnot are created on a regular basis, which puts an upper bound on how difficult the process can be. But point taken.
2MixedNuts
It might be too surprising and horrible for him to let himself think that people might have access to the obvious stand-in for cryonics and just ignore it.
0ikrase
He already knows that the Dark Lord's death protection requires killing people. (Does it prevent physical degeneration or dying of old age?)
0PotKettle
Somehow circumventing the Hayflick Limit is a possibility I suppose.
5ahartell
You can't use the fineness thing as a reason for the Philosopher's Stone to be unique to Flamel as it says explicitly in the chapter that all alchemical magic has the same requirements, and it doesn't sound at all like Flamel is the only one who can do alchemy.
3Desrtopa
I don't see why this would be an advantage over an experienced alchemist who's old enough to use their own children's.
0DanArmak
Or any other children's for that matter. Or they just know from experience how thick hair is. (It varies a lot between people, at least as much as between ages.) Or they're dedicated enough to make it much finer than needed just to be sure.
0gyokuro
Do strands of hair really become thicker over time? I doubt this.

No, I am thinking that the process of making the stone may simply not work for wizards that have begun to age. - That the crafting process draws on the youth of the wizard or witch crafting the stone, - the hair of a child. And it has to be the hair of the crafter - Everyone after Flamel have substituted the hair of some random kid, which just does not work. it is a spell that can only be done at all by a child prodigy, Which explains why it has not been duplicated - Very, very few teenagers and below would try it. This would also explain why he has not mass produced it - He can not make it again.

Also, there is the point that Hermione knocking off a philosophers stone out of the blue would derail everyone's plots in the most hilarious fashion. Flamel's Stone locked away behind insane security? Too bad Dumbledore, there is a second one in a students trunk. Heck, she would probably start selling the darn things.

4tenshiko
Probably? Definitely - the whole idea is her Get Rich Quick scheme to repay Harry.
1Qiaochu_Yuan
You don't need to sell the literal hen that lays the golden eggs to make money from it. It turns stuff into gold, remember?
3Pluvialis
Penalty for incorrect use of the word 'literal'.
3Qiaochu_Yuan
Hmm. In my head I wanted "literal" to modify "golden" but not "hen" or "eggs." I guess that didn't work out so well on paper.
2TobyBartels
Try ‘You don't need to sell the hen that lays the literally golden eggs’.
1victordrake
I thought it was a goose.
1TobyBartels
So it was!
1Izeinwinter
Yhea, the open selling of stones would be more about "Not being kidnapped" than "making money". Her defenses rather obviously not being up to Flamels standards (and Flamel appears to rely in large part on hiding!)
0Alicorn
Baby hair is very fine...
0gwern
I have read that the reason shaving seems to make hair thicker and stubbier has something to do with the thicker hair taking longer to grow. The baby hair may remain as fine all one's life, but be slowly hidden under the slower-growing thicker hair?

Shaving doesn't actually make hair thicker and stubbier, it just takes off a hair's tapered point and exposes a cross section.

0NancyLebovitz
I'm pretty sure not. While I don't examine the hair in my hairbrush hair by hair, it all looks to be of about the same thickness.

"owner of a transportation company that won the 19th-century shipping wars... monopoly on oh-tee-threes"

I literally facepalmed.

Also, wow, Harry must absolutely love the taste of foot.

5MixedNuts
I laughed so hard I sprained something in my neck. I wonder if I can sue Eliezer?
4CronoDAS
I just got that right now.

I don't get it. How about a hint for non American Readers?