Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Rational Harry Potter

If you like Harry Potter and if you also like science, then you absolutely must read this: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality.

It is brilliant. No, really -- incredibly, amazingly, scarily brilliant. It takes some of the history and most of the world of the Harry Potter series (the settings, the politics, the wizarding war) and gives them a twist, resulting in a totally different story. It's Harry Potter as if Ender Wiggins from Ender's Game was the hero.

It is also incredibly funny. I laughed out loud, literally, more than once and a couple times so hard there were tears in my eyes. It's over 500,000 words long so a serious investment of time, but worth every single minute. It's the best thing I've read in...I don't know how long.

A little tiny sample:

"I... see," Professor McGonagall said. "And if, perhaps, you were to discover the entrance to Salazar Slytherin's legendary Chamber of Secrets, an entrance that you and you alone could open..."

"I would close the entrance and report to you at once so that a team of experienced magical archaeologists could be assembled," Harry said promptly. "Then I would open up the entrance again and they would go in very carefully to make sure that there was nothing dangerous. I might go in later to look around, or if they needed me to open up something else, but it would be after the area had been declared clear and they had photographs of how everything looked before people started tromping around their priceless historical site."

Professor McGonagall sat there with her mouth open, staring at him like he'd just turned into a cat.

"It's obvious if you're not a Gryffindor," Harry said kindly."

Yes, it's a Ravenclaw version of Harry. He calculates the odds, he thinks ahead, he uses reason and Bayesian probability and ...  really, you should just go read it right now, because it is that good. No, even better than that. Really.


  1. Oh - this I can't play with you. I have not read any of the HP books nor seen any of the movies. I keep meaning to remedy this but...

  2. Oh, it definitely wouldn't work for you then! You'd be completely confused. But the first few Harry Potter books are totally worth the read. I honestly think I learned more about writing from reading those books aloud to R when he was young than from anything else ever. When you're reading aloud, there's a temptation to skip the boring parts, skip the description, jump over unnecessary details. In the first two Harry Potters, you can't do that at all, because there are no boring parts and you can never know which details might turn out to be pivotal. They're really impressive. (Only the first two, though. After that, the movie deals and the money and the pressure got in the way, I think. The last couple books are bloated and overly showy.)

  3. I'm currently co-authoring a book on better decision making with an organization on rationality that the author founded.

    Jim Miller

    1. The Center for Applied Rationality? Their seminars sound really interesting. I didn't spend a lot of time on their website (I read all 500K words of the story a little more than a day so I was feeling slightly burned out on the internet) but I'll have to go back and explore some more.

  4. Sarah - this is actually in response to your comment on Lani's rehab about shopping. You spoke of not having fun writing. I know what you mean. Once upon a time I read a book by Amanda Quick; a paranormal romance titled Wait Until Midnight. In the book there is a character who is serializing a novel chapter-by-chapter in the newspaper. And having a blast doing it. (blogpost review here: )
    I thought, I want to have fun like that. Even though she is a character in a novel and not real, can I have a real experience like that?
    So I decided to write a novel in Friday installments on my blog. I got 2 people to beta read in advance. It took me 4 months I think and IT WAS FUN. I haven't had that much fun since then. Of course, it didn't make me any money. Also, I don't feel like I can do that again because it's a lot to ask of beta readers. They have to commit right along with you.
    I have been doing a willwriteforchocolate yahoo group and that was fun for a while but now it's not motivating me and people aren't participating.
    There has to be a way to make this more fun.
    I hope you don't give up. Selfishly I want to read the last of the Gift books. Also, where would you redirect that creative energy?

    1. I think one of my problems is that when I started writing again, I was doing the serialization thing with stories that people were motivated to read. I had these long, complicated, twisty plots with loads of hidden jokes...huh. I just realized that I stopped doing that in Thought. Maybe that's when it stopped being fun. I may have to think about that one for a while.

      And yeah, I tried joining a writing group on reddit, but I'm by far the most active member, so it's not working for me either. But definitely the fun used to be in part the community I had found, and it doesn't really exist anymore. So maybe working on finding a new community around writing is the thing to do? Not sure how, though...but it's worth thinking about!

    2. That's what I want to do. Have you been on savvy authors dot com? I am not very computer savvy so I haven't gotten around very well but there may be something there. It could be fun if we were in a group together.
      I was moderating the yahoo group willwriteforchocolate but it just fizzled.

  5. Hello! I recently just started a youtube Korean food channel, EasyKoreanFood, where you can learn how to make fast & easy Korean food! It would mean the world to me if you could check it out because I'm just starting out! Thanks!

  6. Harry Potter is my favorite story. When I get a time, I read the book. Thanks for share the post about Harry Potter.

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