(If you don't know what Gurren Lagann is, don't hesitate to google & watch it, unless you have an aversion to anime in general, in which case ignore this altogether.)

I feel that a fanfic like HPMOR but with Gurren Lagann's setting and characters could be 1) absolutely kickass (given EY-level writing) and 2) in fact better suited to treatises on rationalism, logic and science than Harry Potter. The premise I saw on /a/, an indeterminate time ago, without any connection to HPMOR (hell, it was probably before HPMOR), but it struck me then as surprisingly well-conceived. It went like: "The heroes relieve the entire history of science, first inventing the scientific method, then examining specific fields, one per arc, for useful and creative stuff to use against the powers-that-be keeping humanity down through their ancient, rigid knowledge." Now, this is easy enough to fit into the specific setting of TTGL, first using older tech and basic rationality against Lordgenome, then, after the timeskip, going for current and speculative science to bring down the vastly more powerful but anti-creative Anti-Spirals, ultimately aiming for FAI. The divergence point could be, like in HPMOR, Simon's upbringing, e.g. his parents surviving and teaching him the few remaining scraps of the Lost Arts... then Kamina convinces him to improve on it, think freely, try new methods instead of just new applications, etc.

I should also make it clear that I'm not writing that anytime that could be reasonably defined as "soon", and am in fact looking to force the idea onto someone of you fine folks.

Well, discuss!

Possible structure:


- ep. 1: Divergence point, state of humanity. Fallacies & biases: "It can't be any other way", "Must be a good reason for us to be kept underground".

- Kamina makes his first breakout attempt. Village Elder makes a very early point about heedless risk, existential or otherwise. Contrarianism. Reversed stupidity is not intelligence.

- The Beastman-driven mech falls down, kills Simon's parents. World-shattering event from outside the box. Kamina drags Simon kicking and screaming into battle, makes a point: why no-one truly wants to just die on an unfair universe.

- They figure out how to start up and control Lagann. Black box. Basics of experimentation.


- Simon's parents had an archeotech laptop, so, besides knowing a tiny bit of BASIC, he had played a couple of RPGs; when Yoko arrives on the Beastman's heels, he tries to tank while she snipes; extrapolation from fictional evidence nearly fails, as he screams that reality is unlike any kind of game, his spiral power starts failing as he circles back into despair and blacks out, but it has already (barely) worked - the Fallacy Fallacy.

Beastman pilot bails out; they haul his mech to Yoko's village; she shows them basic cryptography & related as they figure out Lagann's interface I'm not sure what Yoko's rationalist power set should be, suggest please. Simon wallows in despair, lampshades being an expy of Shinji. Strategies for dealing with nihilism.

The potentially universe-destroying Spiral Nemesis IS the Happy Death Spiral, of course!!! This only really comes up in the final arc, but what a glorious EY shoutout. [pause] No cult.

(to be continued)


Still on it, just really preoccupied atm.


41 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 11:19 AM
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I downvoted this, not for being about fanfiction, or because the concept is bad (I'm not familiar with the source material) but because it falls under the category of "here's an awesome idea that would be really great if someone ELSE put loads of effort into."

Ideas are not as valuable as people think they are. Execution is valuable.

I certainly see your point. I'm also inclined to think that my strategy of shutting up, bailing out and headdesking whenever smarter people downvote me might be more useful than it sounds...

Yeah, that's a fairly useless post as of now and that's what karma is good for. Feel free to punish me however much you believe necessary.

On the other hand, simply discussing the possible structure and themes might prove useful for someone else doing something else along these lines.

What I'm slightly torn about is that I DO think the discussion that the post provokes is interesting, fun and potentially fruitful (insofar as discussing whether rationalist fanfiction is an effective medium in the first place). I don't actually want it downvoted to oblivion. But neither do I want to encourage less wrong to end up being a place for people to sit around saying "hey, you know what would be so awesome!? This random idea I had."

I'm not sure where exactly the line should be drawn, but I felt compelled to at least signal that the line SHOULD be drawn somewhere and you're probably crossing it.

Well, I'll be making up for a rather embarrassing start now. I'd say that's a decent source of motivation (if you have any commitment to the idea in the first place).

This might be a bit later than what you intended, but I'm trying to get started working on this fanfic and your post was pretty helpful.

Is it really a good idea to come up with a rationalist version of a story which explicitly asks you to kick reason to the curb?

I mean, wouldn't one rather, if one is investing the dozens to hundreds of hours such an endeavour requires, start with somewhat more promising base material?

It is possible that the irrationality of the base material doesn't much matter to rationalist fanfic quality. I don't see why endorsements of any old thing can't just be transmogrified into endorsements of reason. The emotional impact may be less, but that's largely a function of use not having as much practice promoting reason like that. Eyeshield 21's team cheer 'Fucking Kill Them!!!" comes to mind.

Throw away your logic and kick reason to the curb! Beautifully following the golden road!


Stare into the darkness to bring forth the light! Every atom of us is in this attack!

To do the impossible, think the unthinkable! Break down the walls, claim the universe as your own!

There's nothing irrational against kicking the collection of fallacies and aging heuristics commonly dubbed "reason" to the curb (especially in the face of first hopeless misery and then x-risk), the question is what you replace it with. In fact, Eliezer has several posts on doing the impossible, seeing the invisible, touching the untouchable and breaking the unbreakable.

[-][anonymous]11y 3

And one on the regret of rationality. This has some bits I'm going to intersperse with Gurren Lagann Quotes:

"But," says the causal decision theorist, "to take only one box, you must somehow believe that your choice can affect whether box B is empty or full - and that's unreasonable! Omega has already left! It's physically impossible!"

Anti-Spiral: Foolish creatures, drunk on your spiral power. Do you possess the resolve to do that? Anti-Spiral: We defended the universe by killing out fellow spirals, and halting our own evolution. Anti-Spiral: Do you possess the sheer fortitude that is on par with that?! DO YOU?! Anti-Spiral: We say, NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO! NOT! AT! ALL!!! Anti-Spiral: You possess neither will! Nor resolve! NOR REASON!

Unreasonable? I am a rationalist: what do I care about being unreasonable? I don't have to conform to a particular ritual of cognition. I don't have to take only box B because I believe my choice affects the box, even though Omega has already left. I can just... take only box B.

Anti-Spiral: "Impossible, sentient beings can't possibly escape from a muti-dimensional labyrinth." Simon: Don't underestimate us. We don't care about time, or space or... multi-dimensional whatevers! We don't give a damn about that. Force your way down a path YOU choose to take, and do it all yourself! That's the way Team Dai-Gurren rolls!

Also, let me show you a funny coincidence that I found in the context of writing a Gurren Lagann fan fiction off of this article:

I do have a proposed alternative ritual of cognition which computes this decision, which this margin is too small to contain; but I shouldn't need to show this to you. The point is not to have an elegant theory of winning - the point is to win; elegance is a side effect.


TENGEN TOPPA GURREN RATIONALITY 40K: I have a truly marvelous story for this crossover which this margin is too narrow to contain.

I know that these are both based off of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fermat%27s_Last_Theorem and that's just a quotable phrase. I just found it interesting looking for connections between the ideas.

[-][anonymous]10y 3

"But," says the causal decision theorist, "to take only one box, you must somehow believe that your choice can affect whether box B is empty or full - and that's unreasonable! Omega has already left! It's physically impossible!"


Unreasonable? I am a rationalist: what do I care about being unreasonable? I don't have to conform to a particular ritual of cognition. I don't have to take only box B because I believe my choice affects the box, even though Omega has already left. I can just... take only box B.

Looking back on it, this post is what finally shifted my intuition from two-boxing to one-boxing on Newcomb's. I guess that counts as anecdotal evidence for the power of rationalist fanfics.

Yeah! I've got to run myself through a checklist on the Sequences now btw, don't want to miss any of the core stuff.

Or maybe the efforts of good writers would be better directed into writing good original fiction rather than (inherently unpublishable) fanfiction.

(I'm being civil here. I could say what I think of the concept of so-called "rationalist fanfiction" in general, but that would derail the thread.)

Ah, how delightfully meta. I enjoyed it, Alicorn.

And speaking of someone who finds "earthfic" relatively boring in comparison to works that open strange and wonderful new worlds to me, I can kind of understand both sides of the argument.

Personally, I think no story idea is beyond salvaging by a skilled writer. Some may take more effort than others, but it's not the genre, it's how you approach it. I'm curious why science fiction and fantasy acquired the stigma they did - I doubt the ratio of good to bad fiction in these genres was that significantly different from the traditional ones.

That being said, Risto has a valid point about online original fiction. As someone who's writing a time travel/lesbian romance novel right now, I don't expect to ever get it published even if I do finish it, and without a connection to an established franchise, I fear people just won't bother with "more of that doubtful crap on the Internet".

Yeah, my imminent original fiction series is not bound for trad. pub. If I have enough readers I'll Lulubook it. I'm hoping to rope in some audience from Luminosity, but I don't think I'll be able to keep too many: the series is neither Twilight fanfiction nor especially rationalist-y.

I'd personally welcome if there was a way to pay for your fiction.

Oh my goodness! Um, yes, MixedNuts is correct that I have Paypal. I will go set up a donation button on my hub site and on Elcenia. I am concerned that there is some kind of legal issue with putting one on Luminosity (that's also why it doesn't have any Project Wonderful boxen).

Okay, donation button added to hub site. I'll make an Elcenia button too but I think I'll install it when the first chapter goes up tomorrow.

Wait, there is. Ask her for her Paypal account info or something. I owe Alicorn money, anyway; now you mention it I'm going to add... €10 per book times two books is €20.

(BTW, Alicorn, tell me where I should send the money. I promise I'll pay you soon-ish!)

Edit: Done (both debt and book money), but I messed up and sent her $20 instead of €20.

[-][anonymous]11y 0

First of all, as a stand alone piece, that is an elegant way of expressing a point.

Second of all, in context with your other work, that is an EXTREMELY elegant way of expressing a point. You not only included a call back to your previous work, you did it in such a way that the piece stands alone without knowledge of the call back.

Third of all, looking over my sample of half written fiction, I can see plenty of examples of the exact OPPOSITE problem. Variant worlds aplenty, some derivative, some not (Whether they're actually good or not, I don't know), but certainly no actual plot or characterization. Almost every single story idea I've had is some variant of: "A fantasy world, in which there is level grinding, a love interest, level grinding, a final boss, and did we mention level grinding?" which just fades out over time. They never actually get finished.

But by beginning with "What if the main character wants to get a book published?" You immediately establish interesting characters and novel dialogue seemingly out of nowhere, even though the character's world isn't fantastic at all.

If you had advice on writing characters, I would appreciate it and I think it would fit well in a thread discussing writing fiction.

On characterization (note: this is what works for me, not holy writ):

  • Your characters are going to have bits of you in them. Most likely, you can't avoid that. But you might be able to make sure they all have different bits, surrounded by parts you make up, and then they won't seem like clones of each other. (Harriet has my old, old ambitions - I don't actually have them anymore - to get in on trad. pub., but meanwhile she's insecure about her earthfic in a way that I'm not about my fanfic, has chosen to study writing and literature in school where I never even sort of wanted to do that, and isn't good at or interested in worldbuilding.)

  • They have to talk like people. This doesn't mean they can never speak in paragraphs, but it does mean that they need voices, should make some forgivable lapses of grammar, deploy appropriate slang, and - except, sometimes, when you write in first person, but even then be careful - not talk like narrators.

  • Think about the markers by which you know real people. You might be able to sum up parts of it in adjectives, but these are hollow when you think about applying them to humans you care about: consider the funniest person you know, would you just say they're funny and stop there? That doesn't come close to capturing anyone's sense of humor. Your characters shouldn't just "be funny" (or be nice, or be smart, or be evil) any more than people are just those things without further differentiation. They need to have traits like that in characteristic ways - and these characteristic ways will have gaps. A well-rounded funny character will not make 100% of possible jokes, a well-rounded nice character will have blind spots or bad moods, a well-rounded smart character will have mastery of some mental gymnastics but not others, a well-rounded evil character needs reasons to do things besides just to be evil (although "to signal evil in a dramatic way" can work similarly in many contexts, this won't cause them to, say, torture kittens in complete privacy!) If you asked me to describe Harriet in adjectives I flat out couldn't do it, but I can tell you what behaviors and words would and would not be like her.

  • Characters should want things, need things, like things, dislike things, find things appealing or unappealing, and sometimes be completely neutral about things. These reactions should follow a consistent pattern, but there is room for some idiosyncrasy, especially when two patterns conflict (e.g. do they hate being poor guests more or less than they hate eating eggplant, when they're served it?) Harriet wrestles with competing desires to get earthfic recognized as a valid medium by the trad. pub. industry, and the desire to get a book between pieces of cardboard on shelves in stores, and she has to make a compromise.

  • Characters should interact with other characters, and I don't just mean put them in the same room and stick dialogue in their mouths. They should behave differently around people of different types (familiar or un-, liked or dis-, numerous or single) in different situations. Some people bring out the best in others, other people bring out the worst, and these can be different people in different combinations. By the end of Earthfic you know something about how Harriet relates to her sister and vice-versa, how she met her roommate and why they became friends and how they snark at each other, how Harriet acts in class with a teacher, and how she reacts to reviews of her story from strangers on the Internet. Harriet's one person, but all these contexts bring out different reactions - she feels (but restrains) the urge to yell at her teacher, yet doesn't dignify the flaming review with a reply. She's relentlessly sarcastic with Dawes in a way that she isn't with Lanie, who in turn gets more personal feelings and details from Harriet than Dawes does. Etc.

  • Give quirks and dispositions, but don't put neon signs on them and certainly don't make them all plot-important. Dawes goes by his last name, but I tuck that info into witty banter and there's no reason you need to know why he does. Harriet doesn't like people pestering her about her sister's stories. The two of them share food without any occurrent exchange of currency and Dawes feels comfortable borrowing Harriet's books without permission. Lanie's married, and doesn't like to go home to an empty house. Harriet attends extracurricular activities like Spanish club. None of this matters - well, Lanie not wanting to go home mattered, but I could have made up any excuse for that - but it helps them be people on the page.

That's a well done if a bit heavy-handed story. I think it might work slightly better if it were set in a world where earthfic was never socially acceptable rather than a world where it had become unacceptable over time.

Yeah, it's one of two with a "preachy" warning in the index.

"Socially unacceptable" isn't quite what I was going for - more "low status". Making earthfic always have been unpublishable would have had more ripple effect on the world than I wanted to bother with for such a short story.

It might have had a larger ripple effect, but since the story isn't that long, I don't think you would need to spend much resources actually thinking about what it would do.

(inherently unpublishable)

It's getting published all the time on fanfiction.net. You just can't ask people money for copies.

It looks like a pretty weird situation for original fiction right now. Traditional publishing has massive inertia and cruft in a world where you can just put your manuscript online for everyone to read, particularly for someone who is more concerned about getting as many readers as possible than getting sales profits. On the other hand, everyone assumes, mostly correctly, that original fiction online is horrible crap and not worth even trying to read, so there's no good method of discovering if some of it is actually good, and no incentive for actually good writers to get to the top of this discovery queue. It actually seems better for fanfiction, since there's a centralized site for it with lots and lots of review aggregation.

Fanfiction is kinda shitty as fiction compared to good original fiction, but it actually does seem to make more sense than original fiction with the rationalist fiction thing, which basically wants to reach a maximum number of roughly age 12 to 30 readers and try to change their mind.

Even if physical publishing is not a concern here, fanfiction by itself carries a stigma, even among many of those same 12-30-year-olds that would be its target audience. And it can negatively reflect on the author and the community by association if said fanfiction is given excessive emphasis.

"Yudkowsky? Is that the one who's writing an insanely long Harry Potter fanfic?" "Well ummmm..."

it can negatively reflect on the author and the community by association

Oh ye of little faith. It's a feature. Eliezer is trying to look chaotic and iconoclastic and contrarian. Possibly because trusting authority has historically been harmful and we need more dissent, possibly because he's trying to annoy his parents.

I'm not sure if this is supposed to be sarcasm. At least, I hope it is.

It isn't. Eliezer knows about the effects (p~1), approves of them (p=0.9), because they're part of his "serious ain't solemn" shtick (p=0.9), which he has carefully thought about and concluded is a good idea (p~1), and is in fact a good idea (p=0.6).

Well, where I come from, being uncompromisingly "iconoclastic and contrarian" doesn't convince people, it makes them look at you like at a teenager with a grudge. Paying your words the same amount of attention this image implies.

And until LW authors learn the skills of persuasion, learn how to be the kind of person that people will occasionally listen to, LW is going to remain, at best, a fringe community.

What would your ideal public image of LW be, if you're implying that "at best, a fringe community" is so much less preferable to it? Most of us who care about the issue probably think that LW must broaden its reach somewhat, yet not waste time and effort catering to - ahem - the less genetically fortunate, those who'd have trouble even considering the possibilities of radical change, and all the nice but unsalvageably deluded (yes, the T-word) people.

So do you fall somewhere between those, or in fact have a case for the latter? Not a loaded question; I'm purely curious.

"Less generically fortunate"?

That's, like, not arrogant at all.

Humble and correct denotation, consciously Hollywood-arrogant and lampshaded connotation, nothing wrong with that - or are you telling me we aren't allowed to get some fun from that damn meta discourse? Anyway, do you have a stance?

Y'know... that's a very weak guess supported by few observations, but the current, say, 12 year olds are growing up with fanfiction just as we grew up with SF and fantasy (another stigma-carrying dorky thing of old), and I just can't see them having much prejudice against it.

This might mean that they'll have lower standards, but it might also make them more open to looking for good ideas in unorthodox places.

I'm being civil here.

You were, until you said that.

Or maybe the efforts of good writers would be better directed into writing good original fiction rather than (inherently unpublishable) fanfiction.

Good original fiction takes a lot of work, and even when it is well done is unlikely to succeed simply on the virtue of being good. In that regard, fanfic is arguably a more efficient use of limited resources.

I wouldn't consider it an unreasonable derailment of the thread to talk about the merits or lackthereof of rationalist fanfiction. So long as it was done so in a civil manner.

Do you have a compelling reason that other people shouldn't like it, or is it just something you personally find pointless?

OK, I can sort of understand your gripes with fanfiction in general (I have a few too, although they don't outweigh the enjoyment factors for me), and author tracts (they don't bother me). But why the hell should our community care about LW-fiction being "publishable"? For profit. On paper. Isn't that kind of irrelevant here? Can you visualize a person who'd read a "rationalist fic", but only if it was available to him* through 20th century channels?

*(sorry, switching to genderless pronouns is hard if you're Russian)

Use "they". I'm Russian, and I manage.


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Sorry to derail the thread, but when I spend basically half of my online time disproving stereotypes about Russians, comments like this don't help our cause. I already get embarrassed at many of my people's knowledge of English and basic tact - and it certainly doesn't help when Russians themselves spread stupid stereotypes or Russian Reversal jokes because they find it "ironic". By this point of endless repetition it's not ironic, it's just irritating when something like this is constantly thrown in your face.

Related: http://s3.amazonaws.com/kym-assets/photos/images/original/000/131/012/132178_700b.jpg?1307376548

[-][anonymous]11y -1

Related: http://fc05.deviantart.net/fs31/f/2008/213/4/9/O_RLY__Y_SO_SRS__by_Areyu.jpg

Okay, tbh I understand your sentiment, but do you really feel that there's much harm being done, from a consequentialist standpoint? Suppose you single-handedly demolished those stereotypes; would it make our country's present condition and intellectual capability worthy of respect? You clearly know more about it than I do, given my near ignorance of academic affairs, but if you had any grounds for optimism, wouldn't I have heard something too? I think our culture is done for, and let's make the discussion private if you've any more to say on that.

[I get it, I get the lesson. This line of discussion stops here.]

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